“Who will bring the hot dogs?” That question often sets the tone of our annual Fourth of July celebration. As Americans, we arrange our holiday to include friends, food, and fun for the day. The heat of summer usually affords us the opportunity to incorporate water activities and out door frivolities no matter what area of the country we live in. Most of the nation plays. Too much to eat, too much sun, or too much energy expended in recreation does not daunt our commitment to celebrate the day. When the sun goes down, the fireworks go up.
American tradition links the Fourth with fireworks. Some of us choose to purchase do-it-yourself, stay-at-home explosive devises like firecrackers or sparklers. Others of us select a favorite spot from which to observe as the technically trained set off aerial exhibitions. If we like sound with our sight, we fight the crowds for a front row seat at some local display. If we want a soft chair and air-conditioning, a televised broadcast provides an alternative. Whatever genre, American citizens conclude the day of leisure by lighting our skies with a declaration of independence.
The first declaration was far from amusement and fireworks. Struggling to define a nation’s fundamental philosophy required more thought than “who will bring the hot dogs?” The heat of political pressure from England, the stress from the threat of war, and the tension of economic consequences were certainly not fun and frivolities. Life and death hung in the balance for a nation and for the framers of our constitution.
Two signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were at one time political enemies who later became close friends. Both men served in the Continental Congress. One was elected the second President and the other elected the third. These forefathers of American freedom undoubtedly annually commemorated the day in which they and others signed the document that exploded the United States into independence.
In an act of heavenly providence, both men died on the Fourth of July. On our nation’s holiday in 1826, exactly 50 years from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson expired. Addressing the congress, President John Quincy Adams stated: "Since your last meeting at this place, the fiftieth anniversary of the day when our independence was declared...two of the principal actors in that solemn scene - the hand that penned the ever-memorable Declaration and the voice that sustained it in debate - were by one summons, at the distance of 700 miles from each other, called before the Judge of All to account for their deeds done upon earth."
These two men were guiding lights over the nation’s path to freedom. On July 4, 1826, they concluded their lives by lighting the heavenly sky with another kind of declaration of independence. I am sure that the fireworks we display on the Fourth cannot compare with the heavenly spectacular they experience each day. I am likewise sure that they would be pleased to know that Americans still commemorate the price that was paid and the importance of the day as we light up our fireworks on The Fourth of July.