A Day to Celebrate Freedoms and Blessings

By Brad McEwen

While the vast majority of us won’t be shooting off fireworks, hanging streamers or decking ourselves out in our favorite red, white and blue regalia today—choosing instead to save those time-honored traditions for Tuesday’s big Fourth of July extravaganza—had our forebears had such wonderful tools as Twitter, Facebook and a nearly instantaneous, 24-7 news cycle, there’s a good chance today would actually be the day we’d fire up the coals, light a few fuses or maybe crank up Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

That’s right folks, had our founding fathers been able to post a pic to Instagram and update their Facebook statuses that fateful day 241 years ago, there’s little doubt July 2 would be our day to celebrate and Tuesday would be just another, run of the mill workday.

That is why I think it’s apropos for me to use this occasion to share some thoughts as we get ready to celebrate what I believe may be the most important of our federal holidays.

But before I get started with that, however, I’d like to wrap up the brief history lesson I started about July 2, because honestly—despite numerous years studying American History from elementary school to college—I only recently learned about the controversy surrounding our day of independence.

I’m sure to many of you it seemed like sacrilege when I hinted earlier that we celebrate this country’s independence from Great Britain two days before the traditional July 4th date, but in truth that was actually what founding father and eventual U.S. President John Adams predicted just one day after the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution of independence proposed by Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee.

In what has become a well-known letter he penned to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, Adams postulated the following about that momentous occasion in American history:

 “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. (WikiCommons)”

Of course we all know things played out a little differently with the citizens of the 13 original colonies choosing instead to celebrate American independence on the 4th of July—the date shown on the original Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five (of which Adams was a member)—and subsequent generations have continued to follow suit.

While he might have been a little off on the date this country would choose to recognize possibly the greatest (and undoubtedly bravest) decision in our history, Adams was spot on with his predictions that the day would, in fact, be celebrated annually and about how the citizens might chose to honor the occasion.

Since that first anniversary, with the country still engulfed in a brutal war for its freedom, Independence Day has been marked by intense celebration—with proud patriots playing games, ringing bells, singing songs, firing guns, gathering for parades, lighting fireworks, adorning their property and themselves in patriotic garb to match the Stars and Stripes and engaging in countless other activities to demonstrate their allegiance to the greatest free county on Earth.

By and large, things aren’t much different today with citizens both home and abroad using Independence Day as the lynch pin for family reunions and vacations, the impetus for gathering with loved ones for burgers and dogs roasted over an open flame, for enjoying frothy beverages, for partaking in backyard or civic fireworks displays and for celebrating their freedom.

And in many ways I suspect this year’s holiday will likely be no different.

Without question I can tell you the McEwen clan will take full advantage of the day off from work and will no doubt spend our day gathered around the Weber grill with friends and neighbors and capping the day’s festivities by lighting up a few Roman Candles, Black Cats and other pyrotechnic goodies.

If all goes well, I’ll be able to create yet another wonderful memory of Independence Day—one to rival those of my bygone days in Sparta, NJ when we’d head out on the Dragonette’s boat to take in the fireworks over Lake Mohawk, or those July 4th celebrations after we moved to Gulf Breeze, Fla. and my dad would drive us over to Navarre, near Hulbert Field Air Force installation, to see the rainbow of colors unleashed across the Santa Rosa Sound.

As fond as my memories of 4th of Julys gone by are, however, I’ve been struck this year by the realization that somewhere among the hamburgers, potato chips, ballgames and fireworks, I had forgotten the reason the holiday is so important. For too many years the Fourth of July has simply been a day to be off and maybe set off a few fireworks in the backyard and not a day to reflect on what Independence Day means.

But this year, for whatever reason, has been different. Maybe because of our tumultuous political climate, which has seen this country more divided than it has been in years, or maybe because of the important decisions currently facing our local, state and federal leaders, or maybe because AMC’s “Turn” has returned for its fourth season, this year my thoughts have drifted toward the importance of celebrating our independence.

This year I’ve quit worrying so much about beach trips and fireworks and shifted my focus to the important topics of patriotism and why the Fourth of July should be more than just a day away from the office.

Intermingled with my earnest desire to light up a few sparklers or grill up a few tasty treats is an honest desire to ruminate on our independence, to think about how blessed I am that I live in a country whose citizens can choose to celebrate this special day with songs, games and food, or decide to simply take advantage of a chance to sleep later, or head down to the Flint for some kayaking, boating or fishing.

You see, even though I lost sight of it somewhere along the way, if I pause for just a second and think about my life, it’s easy to see why Independence Day, regardless of the date, is a special holiday. The blessings I’ve received by virtue of being an American are truly numerous and plenty.

Because of the sacrifices of our forefathers and original colonists I get to live in a country where people like Jackie Entz can teach area children about the importance of respecting the natural world.

By the grace of God I live in a country that provides free education to all of its children—an education delivered under the tutelage of amazing educators like Melissa Brubaker and Vinson Davis.

I live in a country where a hometown son like Justin Strickland can work with government and business to help our community prosper, where people like Cole Walden and Joe Butler can improve people’s lives with their customized vehicles for disabled citizens.

Because of our independence from tyranny I live in a country where God-loving people like Scot Hemmings can get my children excited about baseball and inspire them to be better people, a country where a man like Jason Belk can find opportunity as a child and then help others to find similar opportunities for a better future.

I’m proud that those patriots who yearned for freedom so many years ago fought and sacrificed so that I can sit here today and make my living writing about my community—highlighting the amazing people that make me proud, not just of Albany, but of my country.

I know things aren’t perfect and there will always be important issues facing us. I understand that there will always be conflicts brewing as others try to infringe on our way of life. But because of our freedom, freedom we celebrate and honor each July 4th, I believe we’ll always have the chance to persevere and prosper.

So this year, as we prepare to celebrate our most American of holidays, I only ask that everyone take some time to reflect on what it means to be an citizen of the greatest country on Earth, to consider how fortunate we are that we can fire up the grill on land we own, spend a day with our loved ones, and celebrate OUR Independence Day.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Connect with Brad - 229.405.7212 - Brad.McEwen@abtgold.com - @BradGMcEwen