Americans are celebrating Independence Day Friday, the 232rd anniversary of the declaration of independence from Britain. As VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington, that celebration is taking the form of parades, picnics, fireworks, and one very special day for 72 new Americans.
U.S. President George Bush welcomed 72 new American citizens in a ceremony at Monticello, the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.
"Those of you taking the oath of citizenship at this ceremony hail from 30 different nations," he said. "You represent many different ethnicities and races and religions, but you all have one thing in common, and that is a shared love of freedom. This love of liberty is what binds our nation together, and this is the love that makes us all Americans."
On his final Fourth of July as President, Mr. Bush paid tribute to the beliefs Thomas Jefferson set out in the Declaration of Independence.
"The principles that Thomas Jefferson enshrined in the Declaration became the guiding principles of the new nation. And in every generation, Americans have rededicated themselves to the belief that all men are created equal, with a God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he added.
John Adams, who signed the Declaration and later preceded Jefferson as President, said the Fourth of July would be "the most memorable in the history of America...solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations."
Each year, Americans from coast to coast celebrate the holiday just as Adams had intended, with picnics, festivals, concerts, fireworks displays and parades.
Here in Washington, an Independence Day parade drew thousands of people from across the country.
And Independence Day has a special meaning to each one.
WOMAN1: "Just living in a free country, and enjoying all the freedoms that we have."
WOMAN2: "It means freedom, and an appreciation of."
WOMAN3: "Food and beer."
MAN1: "Independence, freedom, American Way. Life as an American."
MAN2: "I love America. It's patriotic, everything about it."
MAN3: "Well, the Fourth means years and years of struggle for freedom. Over the years, we sometimes seem to take that for granted, but I am a former military guy, so (it is) something I do not take for granted, and we should never forget what we have come through in the struggles."
MAN4: "The chance to be free in a country that promotes freedom all across the world, and I am proud to be an American."
More than 1,200 U.S. troops serving in Iraq marked Independence Day by re-enlisting.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took part in a parade in the Northwestern state of Montana, and Republican candidate John McCain celebrated the holiday in his home state of Arizona.