For more than two centuries, Americans have set aside July 4, Independence Day, to celebrate their cherished ideals of freedom and equality.
Three visitors at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. reading these words that were drafted over 200 years ago. The ideals of freedom and equality that they stand for are still very important to Americans today.
Written by Thomas Jefferson, they make up part of the Declaration of Independence, the famous document that declared the reasoning behind the American revolution of 1776. It ends by stating: "that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved."
On July 4 of that year, Congress adopted the declaration, and since then, Americans have come together each July 4 to celebrate what is now known as Independence Day. Since 1776, the United States has grown and changed a lot. but despite this, its strength remains firmly rooted in the belief in equality, freedom, and human rights. Independence Day is an official national holiday, a day when Americans pause to consider their blessings and heritage.
When asked about this, people across the nation say that celebrating the Fourth of July is a meaningful way to give thanks for the freedom they enjoy every day.
Marilyn Lasonda, from southern California, says that independence is very important to her. "I think it always will be," she said. "This is a great country and the freedoms we all enjoy here are very important, I think, to all of us."
On the Fourth of July, families and friends gather to spend the day together, usually outdoors. They have picnics and barbeques, and go to musical concerts and festive parades. Julia Morgan of Abardine, Mississippi describes how she celebrates with her relatives.
"Most of us just have a great big family picnic...there are 40 in my immediate family. We have a big picnic.. watermelon, and homemade ice cream, and of course, hamburgers and hot dogs...a lot of family fireworks usually...a family celebration - celebrating our freedom to be a family."
To many, the best part of Independence Day comes at night, with the traditional fireworks show. All across the United States, brightly colored fireworks light up the sky. Many Americans would agree with 5-year-old Hannah Abrahms from Bethesda, Maryland that fireworks are definitely a unique and fun part of the celebration, but other symbols are also representative of the day.
The red, white and blue American flag is especially visible on the Fourth. Its colors and pattern have a special significance. The seven red and six white stripes represent the 13 original colonies, and the white stars on the blue field stand for each of the 50 states.
In 1782, when the colors of the flag were made part of the official seal of the United States, the Department of State used these words to explain their meanings: "Red stands for hardiness and courage. White is the symbol of purity and innocence. Blue is the color of vigilance, perseverance and justice." The flag is a symbol of the pride that Americans have in their nation, and of their respect for the freedom and rights that the government guarantees.
On Independence Day, the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, and other songs can be heard at concerts and festivities in every state. They inspire patriotic sentiments in Americans of all ages, including Bill Rhodes, a member of the United States Coast Guard. "I'm 42 years old, and I still get choked up when I hear the Star Spangled Banner," he said. "You'd think that being in the military for over 20 years, it wouldn't be a big deal, but yes, it is."
As Americans listen to the Star Spangled Banner, the Stars and Stripes, and other patriotic tunes, watch firework displays, and join in other traditional July 4 festivities, they commemorate that event 220 years in Philadelphia when the colonies declared themselves free and independent.