The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, is a federal holiday in which the United Stated commemorates and celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents of our nation. Members of the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution declaring their independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. They had appointed a committee to write the Declaration of Independence, which was officially signed on July 4, 1776. Two of the five who served on this committee— John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—later became presidents of our country. The adoption of the Declaration of Independence was the real beginning of the United States of America, the greatest nation the world has ever known.
The Fourth of July celebration has deep roots in the American tradition of political independence and freedom. This is a patriotic holiday reflecting on America’s history and our heritage, and expressing our gratefulness and thankfulness to God for the freedoms and liberties cherished by our citizens. Who can forget the words of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote: “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.”
Over 237 years have passed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It is important that each generation understands the value and the responsibility of living in a free society, a society in which we can pursue happiness through freedom and liberty. We must never forget that first generation of brave Americans who fought to acquire our liberty and the generations since who have fought to keep it.
One of the most important and powerful national symbols of our freedom is our American flag. For more than 200 years the American flag has been the symbol of our nation’s strength and unity. It has been a source of pride and inspiration to millions of Americans. It is and has been a beacon of hope to countless service men and women around the world.
In the summer of 1813, the United States government commissioned a professional Baltimore flag maker by the name of Mary Pickersgill to create a garrison flag for Fort McHenry. The flag she made measured 30 feet by 42 feet and was flying over the fort during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814. After 25 hours of British bombardment from ships in the harbor, Francis Scott Key looked out the window from a ship in the harbor to see that flag still flying, prompting him to write the Star Spangled Banner, which became our nation’s national anthem in 1931. This flag is on display in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution.
Today’s flag has 50 white stars—representing today’s 50 states—on a blue rectangular background. It has 13 horizontal stripes—7 red stripes alternating with 6 white stripes. These stripes represent the original 13 British colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain. The colors are symbolic as well. The red symbolizes hardiness and valor, the white symbolizes purity and innocence, and the blue symbolizes vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Through the years, our flag has been referred to by several names, including the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and the Star-Spangled Banner. To every generation, it has stood for the cherished freedom and the pride of being an American. May tomorrow’s generation remember what this flag has gone through and what it stands for.