Did you know John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, thought July 2nd would be celebrated to honor the founding of the United States? Me either.
The Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution of independence on July 2. The next day John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
The Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence itself on July 4 and that date was included on the document. And the rest is history.
Regardless of the actual date, it took amazing courage for our founding fathers to stand up and rebel against King George and Great Britain. They were overmatched, out-gunned and had nothing to fall back on. If they had failed, I can only imagine how much worse things would have gotten for the colonists.
About the same time, Irish statesman, philosopher and member of the British Parliament Edmund Burke is supposed to have said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The only thing, no one can find where he actually “wrote” that anywhere. It’s possible he said it in a speech. Others believe that the quotation is a modern paraphrasing of things he was saying at the time.
While those were scary and difficult times, modern Americans have faced similar challenges. Over the last several months, I’ve been interviewing American war veterans about their experiences. I’m collecting oral histories and plan to compile the thoughts of these men (and hopefully women) into a documentary project about those who have served their country in time of war. I’ve had the honor and privilege of interviewing men who fought in every conflict the United States has been involved in over the last 70 years as part of this effort.
Of the interviews I’ve conducted, I don’t think I’ve talked to a soldier who: A) considered himself a hero; B) regretted his service or C) would hesitate to do it again if called upon. Even the ones who were drafted still know the pride of serving their country when they were needed.
As a nation, we faced one of the most trying times in the last 50 years with the terrorist attacks in New York and in Washington DC and our servicemen have risen to that challenge. At home, we had to pull together and support each other. We had to figure out a new normal for life.
Serving your country and standing up against evil doesn’t necessarily require holding a rifle. Many of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence didn’t actively fight in the American Revolution with a musket in their hands. They served their country in other ways; as statesmen, as publishers and leaders.
Then as now, the issue is still the same. We have the choice to stand up and take action to face evil where we see it in the world, the same way veterans of World War II did when they faced down Hitler on one front and the Japanese on the other. The same way American servicemen have fought to make a difference for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.
A day like Independence Day (be it on July 2 or July 4) is an important time to reflect on the price of freedom. The price of standing up against evil. The saying “Freedom isn’t free” was no more true 200+ years ago than it is today.
Enjoy your family today; celebrate the Fourth of July as the peak of summer. Have a cook-out. Eat too much food and enjoy fireworks tonight. But stop to think about the people who have made the United States what it is. Say thank you to someone who has served to fight against evil in the world if you can, or whisper a prayer for them if you can’t.
Today, and every day, our flag still flies and represents everything great this country stands for.
Update: On July 4th, a reporter stopped by my in-law’s house and wanted to talk to us about celebrating the holiday, in spite of the severe storms we had just endured. You can see the story and video here. (They misspelled my name.).