If you think celebrating the Fourth of July is just a matter of firing up the barbecue, getting out the sparklers, or heading to the seacoast or the mountains for a three-day weekend, we invite you to reconsider. The Fourth of July is also known, of course, as Independence Day, and that’s the reason for this extra day away from work and for the lifestyle you enjoy today.
The Declaration of Independence was finalized on July 4, 1776, and set the colonies on the path toward their emergence as a nation. Political speeches, fireworks, and red, white and blue bunting are fine for the occasion, but the signing of the Declaration of Independence is a lot more than a reason for a party.
We think the Declaration of Independence, signed by New Hampshire’s own Matthew Thornton, among others, is a document that should be read regularly to remind us of who we are as a country and to make sure we continue in the tradition of those who fought to establish a free nation, whose leaders were expected to listen to those they serve. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are perhaps the document’s most famous lines, but the list of injustices attributed to Great Britain makes for good reminders of what our government should never become. That’s particularly timely reading during a time when political attacks have the potential to rise or sink to unpleasant levels. It’s also a straightforward and simple document. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, not qualities every nation freely grants its citizens. How we pursue that happiness is left to us to decide, not dictated by a ruler. We take that for granted, but to many people across the planet (look, for example, at the uprisings of the “Arab Spring”) it’s only something to dream about.
So, figure out what makes you happy as you enjoy your holiday weekend. A hearty meal, a good place to swim, and a sky full of sparkling fireworks make for a pretty good celebration of freedom. Especially if you pause a moment to thank those who made it all possible in 1776.
Have a safe and celebratory Fourth of July!