Celebrating America’s Independence in Missoula, MT U.S.A.

By LINDA McCARTHY

Independence Day. Why don’t we call it that anymore? Instead we refer to this holiday as the Fourth of July, which is quite unusual. We don’t refer to Christmas as the 25th of December or Halloween as the 31st of October or even Valentine’s Day as the 14th of February, despite those holidays falling on the same date every year. Yet, we continue to refer to Independence Day as the Fourth of July. Interesting, isn’t it?

Having lived outside of the United States of America for six months this year, I have a new-found appreciation for Independence Day.  July 4, 1776 was the day our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring America free from English rule. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson – our nation’s third President – in just two weeks, it is America’s most cherished symbol of liberty.  Some of our country’s most influential leaders signed the Declaration of Independence, including John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.

John_Hancock_Envelope_SignatureHancock played an instrumental role in coaxing our country into the American Revolution. He was orphaned as a child, adopted by a wealthy family and graduated from Harvard at the age of 17. Interestingly, Hancock is who we now refer to when seeking someone’s signature because his was the most flamboyant and recognizable of all the 56 signatures. Franklin, the oldest signatory on the Declaration at age 70, was a printer, publisher and postmaster. John Adams was our country’s second President and was a graduate of Harvard Law School.  Ironically, Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other on –believe it or not – July 4, 1826. Samuel Adams, John’s cousin, was a tax collector and….drum roll here….a brewer ofbeer.

signing declaration of independence

Signing the Declaration of Independence. (Image courtesy of WikimediaCommons)

The most recognizable sentence in the Declaration of Independence was memorized by many in our early school years, but a review can be quite refreshing.

“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.” It goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

U.S. Flag via Wikimedia CommonsThis document still holds true today. As Americans, we are extremely fortunate to have these unalienablerights.

Living in New Zealand gave us a glimpse at what British rule might have been like. Britain claimed New Zealand as its colony in 1840, and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6. Today New Zealanders celebrate the creation of their country on Waitangi Day, but it is a celebration in conflict, as British sovereignty was declared over the country and the native Maori people. Britain – now referred to mostly as the United Kingdom (UK) – and New Zealand are inextricably linked in many ways: finance, government, military, culture, social, language, tourism, trade, commerce and more.  The Queen’s Birthday is still a national holiday in New Zealand.

America is a nation of independence, and we have been given great liberties, freedom, equality and much more. On this particular day in this year of 2013, I am grateful to be an American, and I will celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY with a river float, barbecue and community fireworks with family and friends right here in Missoula, Montana. In addition, I will forever refer to the Fourth of July as Independence Day. How about you?

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LindaMcCarthyMissoulaLinda McCarthy has been a Missoula resident for more than 25 years and serves as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association, a private non-profit, membership-based organization dedicated to promoting, supporting and enhancing the vitality of Downtown Missoula. She and her family live in the Farviews Neighborhood, and her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a computer science professor at UM’s Missoula College. Linda holds two degrees from The University of Montana and was the 2008 Montana Alumni of theYear.

 

 

 

 

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