By DANA DITTMAR
CEO, SCC Chamber
As we prepare for the July 4th festivities, I’m thinking back to my Honor Flight earlier this month, when I visited our nation’s capital and wandered around the National Mall in awe of the various memorials and statues. Abraham Lincoln was resplendent — yet comfortable — in his chair overlooking the reflecting pool. The wreaths symbolizing every state during World War II stood at attention at the opposite end. In between were the ghostly soldiers of the Korean War and the solemn reminder that is the Vietnam Wall.
Our slightly (still) damaged Washington Monument reigned over the entire park — its cracks from an earthquake a few years ago invisible, but the monument’s shadow pointed to the Jefferson Memorial nestled among the cherry trees by the Tidal Basin. Washington D.C. is an amazing place to be.
I was born in The District, and maybe that is why I’m drawn to it. I’ve been going there for years, despite my family’s move to North Carolina and finally Florida. But nothing compares to being there on the 4th of July. Our nation’s birthday. Or is it?
The Second Continental Congress actually voted to approve a resolution of independence officially separating the 13 colonies from Great Britain on the 2nd of July. Once the vote was made, the congress turned its attention to a statement explaining its decision. This statement, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, was revised and edited and finally approved on the fourth of July.
On the first anniversary of the signing, Philadelphia held an official dinner for the Continental Congress with toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, music, parades, troop reviews…and fireworks.
Some sort of celebration has been held every year since, but not until 1791 did anyone refer to it as Independence Day.
Here’s an odd bit of trivia: Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to later serve as president, died on the same day — July 4th, 1826 — which was the 50th anniversary of the signing.
Despite the heat, Washington D.C. is always teeming with visitors this time of year. Tourists will wait for almost two hours just to catch a fleeting glimpse of the original Declaration of Independence. They will amble through the Jefferson Memorial reading the famous words of one of our most eloquent and prolific writers and have their photos taken in front of his likeness.
And they will “ooh” and “aah” and hold their hands over their ears as one of the world’s most magical displays of fireworks is created above their heads.
No matter where you are on this day, more than likely you will attend a cookout, a parade, or a patriotic concert. You will see fireworks and wear red, white and blue. We are a nation proud of our birthday. So enjoy, be safe, hug your family and friends and give thanks for the bravery and the wisdom of our founding fathers for creating the most incredible document that gave birth to this amazing country.