July 4 of 2022 at the Homestead was an Independence Day to Remember for many reasons. We can eat and watch fireworks at a myriad of places. But to celebrate the American Ideals intentionally — and in community, with a throng of grateful people — is a rarity these days it seems. We witnessed the Pledge of Allegiance recited by a group of adults with special needs, a prayerful rendition of God Bless America and the national anthem sung by an operatic duo, a Veteran’s Salute, and historical video footage on a big screen featuring great #USA moments. All that set the stage for a volunteer-led fireworks display that was remarkable.
Some this year proposed a boycott of the holiday. What insanity! How we need to be reminded, even in the midst of trends and developments that might displease us, of the words of Cicero:
Gratitude is the mother of all the other virtues.
John Adams wrote to his wife about his expectations for Independence Day celebrations to follow. “[July 4] 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more.”
We think that John and Abigail would have been very pleased, were they in this merry crowd. ; )
As for the activities, some of you have written and shared that you most loved the live animal exhibits, the Green Egg grilled burgers and brisket served by Fleet Plummer, the riding mechanical bull, the Walden Cabin rabbit stew, the hayrides, the ParadICE slushies, the pistol shoot, or the dedication of new historical memorabilia in Semper Fi Hall. (And, with an estimated 460 people, many of you shared your thankfulness for the sanitation station and porta johns provided by Wolfe Homes!)
But what our family will remember most were the symbolic floating lanterns, and a connected incident we had with the hot dog truck managed by our friends at Funnel Cake King. Young workers had reneged on their commitments to serve in the truck, at the last minute, because “it was too hot.” And hot it was. But the owner said he had made a commitment to us, and so he came, to give it his best. As lines backed up, three young men otherwise engaged saw his distress and volunteered to work the unmanned stations in the truck. The owner was so touched he took pictures and sent them to his wife. “There is hope.”
Word spread about what had happened, as the lines quickly abated. Those (here anonymous) young men were a picture of hopefulness to many – and a reminder of how we all can do the same in our various stations, in these crazy days, as citizens who know the small duties in front of us.
As this issue of worker-less places in America becomes more and more acute, it seemed a good time to announce from the stage the timeless words of historian Edith Hamilton. Chronicling the fall of Greece, she wrote:
When the freedom they wished for most
Was the freedom from responsibility,
then Athens ceased to be free
And was never free again.
That incident was a simple, small reminder to pass the torch of the spiritual fortitude and good character that has made America a beacon in the world: the most inventive, prosperous and generous of all nations. As one writer put it recently, “The United States has been an unprecedented, incomparable boon to humanity. It is the most powerful country in world history. It has freed millions of people around the globe, raised billions from poverty, and shaped the destinies of entire countries and continents around the framing principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
All this fresh in the minds of many, the fireworks began – and in the midst of the aerial bombardment overhead two families worked together with their kids to light and launch spectacular floating lanterns. They rose gracefully into the glorious twilight sky, meandering through the barrage of illuminations, then making their way off on toward the crescent moon. The still and graceful lanterns were a stunning contrast to the frenetic fireworks exploding all around them.
Somehow, they framed the evening’s celebration. I’m sure the sight of them struck different people in different ways. For me, it was a reminder of the challenge to pass the torch of the American Creed and the timeless truths behind them, a creed which has been proclaimed – imperfectly, yes – to all the world for almost 250 years.
Before my weary head hit the pillow that night, I re-read these words from President Reagan’s Farewell Address:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.
So, vigilant we go as Citizens of Heaven and Citizens of Earth into another year of numbering our nation’s unique history. May we all be vigilant in ways we can, to keep the best of the grand American experiment – and to pass it forward.
Happy Independence to you and yours!