News / USA

Americans Reflect on Meaning of Independence Day

Savoring freedoms and hoping others worldwide will soon be able to do the same

Visitors view the Star-Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History.
Visitors view the Star-Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

America’s independence holiday, July 4th, is a chance for Americans to take the day off, have a picnic, go to the beach or take advantage of sales at the shopping mall.

But for many Americans, it is also a time to reflect on the historic meaning of July 4th.

Music and barbeque

Street musician Raycurt Johnson treats passersby to patriotic music as they head into  downtown Washington on the subway.

Street musician Raycurt Johnson plays patriotic music near a subway stop in downtown Washington
Street musician Raycurt Johnson plays patriotic music near a subway stop in downtown Washington

Music, whether it’s played by street musicians or members of the National Symphony Orchestra, has traditionally been part of the annual Fourth of July celebration, along with barbeques and fireworks.

And, for many Americans, the holiday weekend is also a time to think about history and reflect on what it means to be an American.

For some families, that means coming to Washington, D.C., to visit the city’s historic monuments and museums.

John Carothers, from Santa Cruz, California, says the nation’s capital is especially meaningful to him at this time of the year.

“It’s really wonderful to come here and see the bed of the government that we now live within.”

Reflecting on America’s past

The Carothers family visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where one of the highlights is the almost 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner. The hand-sewn flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the U.S. national anthem.

Seeing it was one of the highlights of the trip for 14-year-old Milena Carothers.

“It was much larger than I thought it would be,” she says. “And it’s amazing how it’s pretty much well-preserved after so long. You can still tell what it is, not much damage to it. Really amazing.”

The American History Museum expects to welcome more than 100,000 visitors over the holiday weekend.

Top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln to Ford's Theatre on the night of his assassination.
Top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln to Ford's Theatre on the night of his assassination.

“I think July 4th is the time that people come and they really want to connect with American history and with their stories," says Andrea Lowther, director of visitor services for the museum. “And so, of course, they do come to see those icons.”

In addition to the Star-Spangled Banner, those historic icons include the hat worn by Abraham Lincoln the night he was assassinated.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable lap desk of his own design.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable lap desk of his own design.

And the writing box Thomas Jefferson used while drafting the Declaration of Independence.

“I mean, how much more perfect for July 4th can it be?” says Lowther.

Civil liberty

For other Americans, July 4th is about principles that can’t be displayed in a museum. Christine Coombs of Gaithersburg, Maryland, says Independence Day symbolizes the right to choose her own religion and to practice her Mormon faith without persecution.

“Freedom is everything in our country,” she says. “I think it’s what our country means. It’s what we stand for - the ability to choose. I really love my religion and it was important for me to be able to choose.”

Separation of church and state

Martin Hochhauser of Poughkeepsie, New York, also believes in freedom of religion, but he believes Americans must continue to be careful about separating religion from government - a tension reflected in current political debates.

“In New York, they just voted to let gay people get married and not to treat them as second class citizens,” he says. "But some religious groups are trying to say ‘It’s our country and the heck with every other religion and every other opinion but ours.’ That’s not right.”

Ronnie Stephens of Jacksonville, Florida thinks Americans take many of their freedoms for granted.

“I think it’s time that we need to just step back and reflect on how good we do have it no matter what your political affiliation is,” he says. “We can all come together and enjoy what we have here.”

Milena Carothers, 14, expresses a sentiment shared by many Americans visiting the nation’s capital in the week leading up to the Fourth of July.

“I hope that the countries that are having troubles right now will be able to celebrate their own Fourth of July in the future and their own independence.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid