It may come as a surprise, but a lot of important events took place in our nation’s history on July 4.
A few of you may recall. However, my guess is most of us do not know or will not remember the majority of them. That is to be expected. Allow me to share some of the more important events from this day.
The most memorable is July 4, 1776. The United States Declaration of Independence was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, adopted by the Continental Congress and signed by 56 delegates from the thirteen British colonies established on the Atlantic coast between 1607 and 1733.
The men who issued that famous document realized they were signing their own death warrants. They knew the British would consider them traitors. Many suffered hardships during the Revolutionary War.
William Floyd of New York saw the British use his home for a barracks. His family fled to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees. After the war, Floyd found his fields stripped and house badly damaged.
Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed, thrown into prison, and treated like a common criminal. His home was looted and his fortune badly impaired. He was released in 1777, but his health was broken. He died a few years later.
At age sixty-three, John Hart, another New Jersey signer, hid in the woods during December 1776 while Hessian soldiers – German soldiers who served as auxiliaries to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War – hunted him across the countryside. He died before the war’s end. The New Jersey Gazette reported that he “continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriots in the service of his country.”
Thomas Nelson, a Virginian, commanded militia and served as governor during the Revolution. He reportedly instructed artillerymen to fire at his own home in Yorktown when he heard the British were using it as their headquarters. Nelson used his personal credit to raise money for the Patriot cause. His sacrifices left him in financial distress, and he was unable to repair his Yorktown home after the war.
Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge, three South Carolina signers, served in their state’s militia and were captured when the British seized Charleston. They spent a year in St. Augustine prison and, when released they found their estates plundered.
These true patriots paid the price so we may celebrate freedom every July 4!
July 4, 1776, was only the beginning of an American History Parade. In 1802,
The U.S. Military Academy opened its doors at West Point, New York. Originally, the Military Academy was the U.S. Corps of Engineers training school, but was made the U.S.M.A by Congress and officially opened as such on July 4.
In 1803, July 4, the Louisiana Purchase was announced to the American people. This wise and perceptive move set the stage for our country’s westward expansion.
On July 4, 1826, founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day. Adams was ninety years of age and Jefferson was eighty three. Five years later, James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president, died at the age of seventy-three on July 4. On a more positive note, Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth U.S. President was born in Plymouth, Vermont on July 4, 1872.
Changing the focus just a bit, on July 4, 1946, The Philippines became a self-governing nation after 48 years of U.S. sovereignty. In 1959, a forty-ninth star was added to the American flag to represent the new state of Alaska. In 1960, a fiftieth star was added to the flag to represent the new state of Hawaii.
On July 4, 1976, the United States celebrated its 200th birthday in recognition of independence from British Rule. Skipping ahead to 1997, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder becomes the first U.S. spacecraft after twenty years to land on Mars after traveling 120 million miles in seven months. In the same vein, the shuttle Discovery was launched on the Fouth of July in 2006 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and was bound for the International Space Station with seven astronauts aboard. This was the second space shuttle to be launched after the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
With the foregoing in mind, I would quickly add that one of my personal objectives in life is to reclaim and restore the concept of a true patriot and connect it to its original roots. My definition of patriotism transcends self, rejects selfish values and exalts service, responsibility, contribution and commitment. And the most logical arena for this display of values is in the local community. In other words, my community is my passion.
So, to our political leaders, I ask you why you got into this business. Do you have a clear understanding as to your own values and principles? Do you openly share them with your people? Do you lead with them when you make decisions? Do you ever engage them in discussions about the “why” of politics and then tell us about the “how?” People want and need the architecture before getting into the plumbing.
To our citizens, I exhort you to attend a town or council meeting or at least call your elected officials – but instead of pleading this cause or that, demand your leaders articulate their first principles. Question them on their operating values, and their public morality, and judge them by whether they live up to their values, and by whether their values reflect the needs of our community.
These steps may seem simple even naïve and they are. Yet they are the only way we will cut through all the cynical posturing, coded language and unseemly gestures that constitute today’s politics.
So, I leave you with several questions to ponder this July 4, 2018. My hope is to stimulate reflection and prompt you to action. Ask yourself the following questions. Ask them of those around you. Listen to their responses and then share your vision with your friends, neighbors and colleagues. This is the only way we can transform our communities into all they can truly be.
- What is your moral code? What are your guiding principles?
- What does patriotism mean to you? What does it mean to your friends and family?
- What three acts can you take… at home, at work, at worship or in civic life to demonstrate stewardship and contribution over consumption?
- What public leaders best exemplify the spirit of true American patriotism? What actions will you take to encourage those leaders? What actions will you take to become one of those leaders?
- What do you want Americans, a century from now, to be the proud of when they look back at the choices our generation made?
Enjoy your 4th of July. Be safe and sane. Allow a little time for reflection and be grateful for those first true patriots.
Until next time…
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.