This journey began when the Continental Congress adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Four days later, colonists gathered in Philadelphia to hear the Declaration read. Afterward they celebrated the nation’s first “Independence Day.”
In the years that followed, Americans have looked to July 4 as the nation’s birthday, the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. This date was officially set aside as a national holiday by the United States Congress in 1941.
In recent history, the Fourth of July has become a favorite summer holiday with parades, picnics, cookouts and fireworks. No one enjoys food and fireworks more than me, but I believe it is important to reflect upon the significance of this holiday and what some call “history’s greatest experiment in democracy.”
Who should we thank for the liberties we enjoy? Ask 10 people and you may get 10 different answers. Should we thank the Founding Fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution? But we can’t forget the rag-tag Continental Army who fought against the greatest military power of that day. We must also honor our military heroes who fought and died to preserve our liberty during the past two centuries. We also owe a lot to the immigrants who left their homes to forge a new and better life in the new world and built a new nation in the process.
There are many heroes and heroines, from George Washington to Patrick Henry, from Abraham Lincoln to Betsy Ross and Susan B. Anthony. Of course, we cannot forget the American soldiers who stand ready today to defend our freedom against tyranny and terrorism. All of these deserve our thanks.
Yet, if we could ask our Founding Fathers, we might get a different answer, one which is not too popular in this day of political correctness. America’s founders consistently credited the success of this fledgling nation to our Creator.
George Washington proclaimed, "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God." Washington was not unique in his beliefs. On the very day the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, telling her that July 4 “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
Thousands of us will enjoy the annual July 4 celebrations in Bradley County, such as the “His Hands Extended” freedom celebration at 10 a.m. on Thursday at First Baptist Church. There will also be outstanding fireworks displays at Bradley Square Mall and Howard Thompson’s Flealand Flea Market on 64 Highway. We will enjoy cookouts and special gatherings with family and friends. But as we celebrate our nation's birthday and anticipate her future, may we take a moment to contemplate her past. And may we take time this Independence Day to thank the “Source” of our freedom.
The preamble of the Constitution says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Patrick Henry said, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”
Let’s celebrate America’s freedom this July 4 with an attitude of gratitude.