OUR VIEW | Happy Independence Day


Summer is in full swing as we approach that most American of holidays Independence Day. Our national holiday of July 4th is simple and enjoyable, with none of the Hallmark driven pressures of gift giving and card sending.

It is a time to pause, amidst cookouts and fireworks, and pay tribute to the remarkable men who founded our country. On Independence Day, which marks the publication of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our founders listed the principles of freedom and democracy upon which they built the United States.

It is striking to think that Thomas Jefferson was only 33 years old when he penned the Declaration. As head of the five-member committee responsible for producing a statement of independence from Great Britain, Jefferson was chosen as principal author over John Adams and Benjamin Franklin because he had already shown his great talent for writing political treatises having already produced A Summary View of the Rights of British America two years earlier.

In the Declaration, Jefferson produced his masterwork, whose words continue to ring through the years: When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with anothera decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness Jefferson then went on to list the many grievances against the King that the colonists felt justified their pronouncement of independence from Britain.

Though Jeffersons very human foibles have been documented through the years, this is a fitting day to salute the enormous contribution he made to our countrys founding and later, expansion. It is one of Americas more amazing coincidences that Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was first released.

Alexandrians are fortunate, living where we do, to have multiple opportunities for celebrating July 4th. St. Pauls church at 10 a.m. will host Organ Fireworks and a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. The National Independence Day Parade is at 11:45 a.m. on Constitution Avenue in Washington. Mount Vernon hosts An American Celebration throughout the day with military reenactments. And further afield, in Colonial Williamsburg, a breathless courier will arrive at 12:30 p.m. in the Capital Courtyard on July 4th to read the Declaration to a waiting audience. (Never mind that in 1776, it wasnt until July 25 that the Declaration reached Colonial Williamsburg.)

Or, check out the original document itself at the National Archives, which also houses the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And, of course, the Mall in Washington will host the U.S. Army Concert Band at 6 p.m. at the Washington Monument and the National Symphony Orchestra will play on the West Lawn of the Capitol at 8 p.m., with the fireworks starting at about 9:15 p.m.

So, whether you check out one of the regional Independence Day opportunities listed above, gather with friends and family to enjoy ribs and fireworks, visit Nationals Park to see the Nationals-Atlanta Braves baseball game or just spend a quiet day of relaxation, take the time to consider Thomas Jeffersons extraordinary contributions to our nascent nation and maybe raise your glass in tribute to the Declarations author.