Fourth of July is a time to ponder U.S. history

Published 9:40 am Monday, June 28, 2010

I happened to be listening to “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on a recent evening. I don’t often watch late night television. If I happen to up late at night, I am usually reading a book or a magazine. On this particular night, Jay was interviewing people on the street and asking them questions about the Fourth of July.

Some of his questions were: Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July? What year did our independence take place and from whom? In what city did the tea party take place?

It was interesting because the people on the street could not answer these questions. (Of course, the show only shows the people who couldn’t answer.) Actually I got the impression that some people thought it was a joke that they could not answer these questions while others looked a little sheepish that they did not know the answers.

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I was able to answer some of them quickly. I did have to search my brain for long lost answers to the rest of them. I was not a history person in school, but old age has taught me that history is important and I wish I had paid more attention. It is that history that is the reason that we have the freedoms that we have today. We also could learn a lot about our future by reviewing the past.

I have put together a little quiz for you on this Fourth of July week. Do you know the answers? If you don’t, you will have to look them up because I am not giving them to you. I want you to search for the answers so you can discover the sacrifice that it took to get us to today. Would we today be willing to fight for our freedoms the way our ancestors did?

What does the Fourth of July commemorate?

What country did we declare our independence from?

What is the name of the statement drawn up explaining this decision?

Who was its author?

What date did most of the delegates actually sign the statement?

Can you recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

When and where did the stars and stripes originate?

How many stripes and stars are on the United States flag?

What is our national anthem, and can you remember the words?

Pass these questions on to those younger than you. The Fourth of July is a great time to give a quick history lesson to the kids and even a great time to refresh our memories.

The very first fireworks display in the United States was a celebration of Independence Day, and it took place in 1777. This was before anyone knew if our new nation would survive the war.

As you celebrate Independence Day and watch the fireworks that also took place so long ago, I ask that you take the time to ponder where we are going as a country today. Perhaps we should also borrow John F. Kennedy’s words that were spoken in his speech delivered at his inauguration in Washington on Jan. 20, 1961. These are his great words of wisdom: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

In the turmoil of the world and the turmoil that we have in our country, we want a fix and we want it fast. Life today is not easy for many people. Life when our country was born was not easy. We want our country to take care of us, but we also need to take care of our country and the principles it was founded on. This is one of those principles:

“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.”

We are here today celebrating and enjoying the Fourth of July weekend because of our history and those that truly believed that we would become a great nation. We have become a great nation, but to stay a great nation perhaps we need to remember John F. Kennedy’s words and the words from the Declaration of Independence. We need to ask what we can do for our country instead of always asking our country to do for us. We need find a way to come together as a nation no matter what race, religion or political views we have. United we stand, divided we fall.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send e-mail to her at .Her blog is Listen to KBEW AM radio 1:30 p.m. Sundays for “Something About Nothing.”