With the Fourth of July falling on a Tuesday this year, many of us will be enjoying an extra-long holiday weekend for which the weather hopefully will cooperate.
The Fourth of July brings back fond recollections from our youth, when we celebrated the Fourth with cookouts at our grandmother’s house at Yirrell Beach on Pt. Shirley in Winthrop.
Those happy summer memories on the beach with family members, many of whom are no longer with us, are etched indelibly in our mind’s eye and always bring a smile to our face as if they happened just yesterday, though they occurred decades ago.
Amidst all of our celebrating however, we often overlook the reason why we have a Fourth of July: It was on that date 247 years ago when a group of America’s leaders and best thinkers gathered in Philadelphia to declare their independence from England by means of a proclamation to the world in which they stated, “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 hasten to point out that in 1776, “men” literally meant only “white men.” About 20 percent — almost 500,000 persons — of the country’s 2.5 million population were enslaved. Half of the rest — women — were treated as chattel and did not have the right to vote in America until more than 150 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
But in the context of 2023, the basic premise of the Declaration of Independence — “all men are created equal” — resonates as loudly and as clearly as ever. To be sure, there are forces in our country that do not adhere to that belief. Racism, sexism, and prejudice still exist to far too large an extent. But if we believe in the vision expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who declared, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” the essence of the Declaration of Independence remains as true today as it did in 1776.