“The second day of July, 1776 [The Declaration was actually signed, engrossed and sent to the legislatures of the states on July 4] will be the most memorable epocha 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 forevermore.”
John Adams was plain and plainspoken. He was not given to hyperbole. However, he recognized the Declaration of Independence as the single most significant document of his age and for future generations of Americans.
Thomas Jefferson, who was principal writer of the Declaration, had three things written upon his tombstone:
“Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia”
Coincidentally those two titans of American freedom died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration was proclaimed throughout the Colonies.
From that time to this our great nation has remained true to Adams’ prediction: our country has recognized the meaning of Independence Day with all the pomp, festivity and fireworks envisioned by Adams. To me this is the single most important celebration in our nation.
Here in our very small island we have enjoyed celebrating the Fourth for many years. To some it’s a day of picnics, games for kids of all ages, and oohs and aahs when day ends and the fireworks take over. To me the Fourth is much more than picnics and games. It’s understanding what the United States is all about. Those fireworks have a symbolic meaning much deeper than simply illuminating the summer skies. They symbolize the continuing recognition of the document paving the way for the unprecedented freedoms we enjoy thanks to the dedication of the Founding Fathers and the many thousands who gave their lives to preserve those freedoms.
Our great tradition is now threatened in the midst of our serious recession and the overwhelming desire to cut spending wherever and whenever we can. There is no room, some say, in our budget for fireworks during this crunch time. That’s an understandable sentiment. But, I ask, isn’t there room somehow to find a way to continue to honor the Great Declaration and with it our history and our freedom? I believe there is a way. A month or so ago I suggested a way to raise the money estimated to fund the fireworks. But, Ken Honecker a member of the Utility Advisory Board, has a much better idea. He suggests taking some of the profits received from the operations of the Farmers’ Market and using that portion of the profits to finance the fireworks. In that way there will be no financial impact on residents and the tradition can continue. Mr. Honecker’s suggestion has a number of virtues including simplicity and the use of funds generated in large part from the operations of off-islanders.
There are some – there always are – who say no. They say: Do without the fireworks; save the money – even though it’s a speck measured against our very tight budget. They say apply the money to other uses or simply save it. I differ. I think our country, our community, deserve better. I believe there is a reason for a simple act of patriotism to pay homage to the most important document in our history. Let us follow the prediction of John Adams, and continue a meaningful and worthwhile tradition.