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

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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid