Hometown parades, American flags waving, backyard barbeques and of course fireworks lighting up a night sky - some of my most vivid memories of growing up in southern Missouri are from the Fourth of July. As a family, we would gather at my grandparent’s house for some food and games before heading over to Main Street for the Salem parade and then city park for the fireworks show. After the excitement of seeing all our friends downtown, we would go back and shoot off some of our own fireworks at home while enjoying homemade ice cream and fresh watermelon. Needless to say, it quickly became one of my most favorite times of the year. It was the ultimate celebration of joys that come from being a free nation which honors the rights and liberties of its individual citizens. Joys that didn’t come easy, that were set in motion by a resolution of a few words written by courageous men 244 years ago, and that have been defended by millions of heroes, both the everyday ones that don’t get the recognition that they deserve and those that we read about in the history books.
I often wonder if our founding fathers knew the struggles, battles, wars and formal birth of a nation to come when, after years of rising tensions over taxation without representation, they made the consequential choice to separate from Great Britain. The conflict over taxes was escalating, and the colonies felt their rights were being impeded. The founding fathers chose the perilous road in pursuit of freedom regardless of the cost. It was a crime of treason, punishable by death, but they bravely moved forward and created the greatest experiment of representative government the world had ever seen.
For years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, people didn’t celebrate it much. Our young nation was divided and the Declaration had itself become controversial. Half of the nation admired the author of the document, Thomas Jefferson, while many thought the move was anti-British. Soon after the war of 1812, America became interested in its past and copies of the Declaration began to circulate. John Adams' death on July 4, 1826, helped promote the idea of celebrating July 4th. Almost 100 years later, in 1870, the United States Congress passed legislation formally declaring July 4th a national American holiday.
This year, in our 243rd year of independence, enjoy yourself and illustrate pride in our nation and all that we stand for. Remind your family and your friends that the joys of freedom arose from a brave decision by our founding fathers. And remind them that those freedoms continue to be defended by millions of heroes and their families today. Celebrating the Fourth of July is much more than a gathering of family and friends, barbecues and fireworks, it reminds us how amazing it is to live in a free country which places the rights of the individual above all else. Take time to enjoy and pass down traditions that remind us of the cost it takes. If you happen to be out and about in Poplar Bluff, at the picnic in Oran, in Ellington with the State Champion baseball team or at my home in Salem, then I look forward to seeing you! Be safe, and be proud that we live in the ultimate experiment of freedom, the greatest country in the world, the United States!