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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid