Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays and spending vacation in Washington, D.C. made me reflect a lot upon our nation and our freedoms that we sometimes take for granted each day.
It was on this date, 240 years ago, that the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson had been working on the draft of our Declaration of Independence for a month. On July 2, the draft was submitted and everyone agreed on the document. July 4, 1776, was the date that was included on the final copy and so it was the date everyone remembers despite the document being signed on Aug. 2, and finally delivered to Great Britain in November.
As we drove through the mountains of Maryland last week on Route 40, I couldn’t get over how fast word traveled through those 13 colonies in the days before Twitter and Facebook. I also really enjoyed imagining how George Washington, Jefferson and other American icons gathering together to make a decision to break free from a nation’s rule that was half-a-world away.
Most of my American history interest lies around the Civil War, and one of the places Evan wanted to visit was the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. We walked past the Washington Monument and wound our way through The Mall, stopping for ice cream and bottled water being sold along the way. It was a great example of the the practice of our nation’s capitalism.
The Lincoln Memorial was very crowded that Friday afternoon. There were people sitting on the steps taking in the views of the reflection pool and the Capitol building along the horizon. I was amazed at the amount of diversity and selfie sticks. But it was here on the steps of the memorial that Evan asked if these were the very steps Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
It gave me chills just thinking about the history surrounding us at that very spot.
Standing at the bottom of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a man with a Bible in his hand. He stood on one of the capstones of the memorial preaching from his heart and praying intermittently. His voice boomed over the crowds’ chatter. Evan asked why someone would want to conduct a church service out in the heat.
I tried to tie this visual into a lesson about the freedom of speech. I explained that many countries don’t have the freedoms like we have. In some countries, that man would have been arrested and removed for not only preaching from the Bible, but having one in his possession.
I also tried to explain that in some countries my job could also get me in trouble and some countries don’t allow people to vote or to question their government. I could tell Evan was bothered by this concept.
Where was the School House Rocks! cartoons when you need them?
In this crazy political year with so much media attention on the potential presidential candidates, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts our nation was founded on 240 years ago.
It’s also a great time to reflect upon oppressed nations who don’t have the freedoms we have and which our country was founded upon 240 years ago.
I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable weekend filled with family, friends and embrace all the freedoms we have been blessed with each and every day.
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. God bless America.