History Buzz July 4, 2011: Obamas & Nation Celebrate Independence Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2011

STATS & POLLS

  • Celebrating Independence Day: Americans come together for Fourth of July festivities in the District and throughout the region…. – WaPo
  • How well do you know the Declaration of Independence? Take our quiz: Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the independence of the United States with fireworks, parades, and picnics. But how much do people know about the 1776 events that are being cheered? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence…. – CS Monitor, 7-4-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama thanks troops at July 4 party on South Lawn: Telling U.S. troops that “America is proud of all of you,” President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.
    The president and his family – wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia – greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
    “You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,” Obama said. “You’ve done everything we could’ve asked of you,” he said, also recognizing the “families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.”… AP, 7-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Fireworks, parades, 62 hot dogs: US celebrates 4th: The U.S. marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating….
    The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.
    Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues…. – AP, 7-4-11
  • A Fireworks Show for the Nation: Fireworks will be illuminating the skies in cities across the country on this July 4 holiday.
    Among the classic destinations for Independence Day displays, the fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a go-to for pyrotechnic enthusiasts.
    A Tennessee-based company called Pyro Shows is on its ninth year of designing Washington’s fireworks celebration. We talked to Tom Stiner about what goes into pulling a pyrotechnic show of this magnitude.
    Set against the backdrop of the Washington monument, the event includes “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which you can watch on many PBS stations starting at 8 p.m. ET…. – PBS, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Families, Troops and Presidential Hopefuls: SUMMARY Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Judy Woodruff reports on how Americans celebrated Independence Day here and abroad.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States marked its birthday today, the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with parades and fireworks, plus competitive eating, presidential campaigning, and a new teenager at the White House.
    The party started late last night, midnight, to be exact, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The tiny mountain town kicked off the Fourth of July in classic fashion, with banners, music, and plenty of kids up past their bedtime.
    Today, in cities across the country, preparations were under way for a robust celebration, unpacking fireworks and prepping the stages…. – PBS Newshour, 7-4-11Mp3

QUOTES

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks over the National Mall, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/4/10

Barack Obama: Today we are celebrating our country, honoring our troops, and enjoying a little BBQ. From all of us at Obama 2012, have a wonderful Fourth.

George W. Bush: Laura and I wish our fellow Americans a happy 4th of July. On this anniversary of our independence, we give thanks for our freedom. We salute the men and women in uniform who defend it. And we ask for God’s continued blessings on the United States.

John McCain: Independence Day Message: I was honored to join General David Petraeus today at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan for 235 of our brave troopers on this, America’s 235th Independence Day. It was both humbling and inspiring to share this day with so many young Americans who have committed their lives to a cause greater than themselves — the freedom and security of our nation.
As we gather today for backyard barbecues and community events this 4th of July, let us pay tribute to our troops in harms way, their families who miss and love them so dearly, and all the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the nation we love.
Have a safe and joyful 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Michelle Obama: What You Can Do to Support Military Families: Good morning, This Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me and my family in recognizing both our brave men and women in uniform and their families for everything they do to protect our country and our way of life.
We know that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve right along with them. For military kids, that means stepping up to help with the housework and putting on a brave face through all those missed holidays, bedtimes and ballet recitals. For military spouses, it means pulling double-duty, doing the work of both parents, often while juggling a full-time job or trying to get an education.
That’s why, a few months ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and serve our military families. Our troops give so much to this country and they ask us for just one thing in return: to take care of their families while they’re gone. So we’ve put out a call to action. We’re urging all Americans to ask themselves one question: What can I do to give back to these families that have given so much?
To answer that question you can go to JoiningForces.gov and learn more about how you can get involved. And you can get started right now through Operation Honor Card by pledging to spend a certain number of hours serving military families in your community. – WH, 7-4-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

An illustration shows Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams reviewing a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson (left), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Illustration courtesy Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Library of Congres

  • Valerie Strauss: Top 5 myths about July 4: Back by popular demand (well, I like them), here are the top five myths about Independence Day, adapted from George Mason University’s History News Network:
    1. Independence was declared on the Fourth of July.
    2. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
    3. The Liberty Bell rang in American Independence.
    4. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
    5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July: Nine Myths Debunked Paul Revere didn’t ride solo, for one: Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. On the Fourth of July—today marked by a continent-spanning Google doodle—here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    2. Paul Revere Rode Solo
    3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
    4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom
    5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
    6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson
    7. America United Against the British
    8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag
    9. Native Americans Sided With the British… – National Geo, 7-4-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What our Declaration really said: Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
    Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
    This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
    We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Special: Independence Daze – A History Of July 4th: Everybody knows that July 4th celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
    In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July 4th. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendents of slaves. And, as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
    Highlights Include:
    Historian Pauline Maier (“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence”) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
    July 4th chronicler James Heintze (“The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
    Historian David Blight (“Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee”) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest abolitionist speeches ever…. – KUOW, 7-4-11
  • On the Fourth, a declaration we still must live up to: MORE THAN 130 British ships had set sail from Nova Scotia on June 9, on their way to the rebellious American colonies. The king of England had hired thousands of German mercenaries. The British penalty for treason was death and confiscation of one’s estate. These were some of the things on the minds of members of the Continental Congress as they met in Philadelphia to debate independence 235 years ago.
    “And yet,” writes the historian Pauline Maier, “as the British began to bring the greatest fleet and the largest army ever assembled in North America into action against the Americans, Congress devoted the better part of two days to revising the draft declaration of Independence. Wars, it understood, were not won by ships and sailors and arms alone. Words, too, had power to serve the cause of victory.”
    The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, wasn’t even an official act of government. The Continental Congress had voted for independence on July 2. The July 4 Declaration, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was meant as inspiration for the soldiers and to justify and explain a drastic action against the crown to a divided and worried public. To be cynical about it, it was in some ways an early exercise in spin control, especially in its over-the-top excoriation of King George III’s alleged offenses. But in time it became — to use the title of Professor Maier’s 1997 book on the subject — “American Scripture,” with an impact on the national consciousness that far exceeded its revolutionary role….. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America trusts its citizens: Putting confidence in individuals, and not the state or the bureaucracy, is what makes the U.S. an exceptional nation.
    For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest, and freest nation in the history of civilization.
    But today, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America – and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as “leading from behind.”
    The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League – but not from Congress – authorization to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president’s bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America’s distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily preeminent among nations.
    Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity – in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land and bread.”… – PA Inquirer, 7-4-11
  • Around America, a spirited Fourth: In the nation’s capital, revelers celebrated the Fourth at the Mall in Washington. Festivities included a parade and fireworks.
    President Barack Obama thanked U.S. service members and their families Monday by hosting them on the South Lawn of the White House for a patriotic cookout and fireworks display.\ “After all that you do for our country every day, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get out of uniform, relax and have some fun,” Obama said.
    And fun was the order of the day as Americans celebrated Independence Day around the nation with flags, fireworks and food.
    Monday evening, revelers along the Hudson River readied for the Macy’s annual fireworks show, which usually attracts around 2 million people each year.
    In Washington, a display on the National Mall was scheduled to light up the night sky with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop.
    In key states around the nation, GOP presidential hopefuls for 2012 spent the day meeting with supporters at various events.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us settled in for a summer day as, well, American, as apple pie…. – CNN, 7-4-11
  • July 4th Menus in Years Past: July 4th cake Our idea of what types of food to serve on July 4th is pretty clear: hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and a red-white-and blue dessert, perhaps, like the festive cake pictured.
    But how was Independence Day celebrated in the early days of the new republic? Food historian Sandra Oliver has delved into the past for answers, and was happy to share her findings with Epicurious.
    The news of Independence took time to trickle down through the country, she says, and celebrations were low-key local observances. “That’s pretty much the case for the first 30 or 40 years or so,” says Oliver…. – Epicurious, 7-4-11
  • Charles Cohen: History Bits About the Declaration of Independence and Its Main Author: For this July 4th Independence Day, we asked a historian to share a few stories about the Declaration of Independence and the people who drafted it.
    Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at U-W Madison, says there was genius behind Thomas Jefferson and others who crafted the document establishing the United States.
    But Cohen says misconceptions have also arisen about the Declaration and its authors…. – WUWM, 7-4-11Download Mp3
  • Some of the signers are obscure but Declaration of Independence endures: When you set off fireworks this holiday, remember to say “thanks” to William Whipple. Or tip your hat to Caesar Rodney as you throw hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. William who? Caesar what? Not exactly household names are they? But without them, and 54 other men like them, people wouldn’t have July 4 off from work, much less a country.
    At a crucial time 235 years ago, those 56 men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, telling King George III theywere “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” The document was a momentous step, and the signers were the movers and shakers of their time. Yet, history has not been kind to many of them.
    “Some are well remembered, but the rest of them unfortunately go down in history as footnotes,” said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith…. – Press Connects, 7-3-11
  • What does our “Declaration of Independence” really mean?: Shocked again! Did YOU hear the news report that only 58% of us (Americans) know when our Declaration of Independence was signed on TV news last evening? The TV report continued to announce that a quarter of us (Americans) do NOT know from whom our founders declared INDEPENDENCE! Do YOU know?
    And now it is dawning the 4th of July 2011, the 235th anniversary of our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from GREAT BRITIAN. Did YOU know 1776 was the year? Did YOU know that GREAT BRITAIN was the “mother country” from which we did declare our INDEPENDENCE?
    The BRITISH “Daily Mail” online specifically puts its focus on our lack of knowledge as to whom we declared our INDEPENDENCE from, “While 76 per cent correctly said Great Britain, 19 per cent were unsure, and 5 per cent mentioned another country.”… – Gazette Extra, 7-4-11
  • Eric Slauter: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.
    In America’s revolutionary history, no document is more iconic than the Declaration of Independence, the short but sweeping statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, severing bonds with Britain and launching the Colonies on their path to independence.
    But what does the Declaration of Independence actually declare? For most Americans today, the answer is embodied in the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “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.�
    Perhaps no sentence in American history is better known or has had a greater impact than these powerful words about equality and rights. It is no wonder then that schoolchildren memorize this sentence, that adults consider it the founding creed of America’s civil religion, or that this and other newspapers will highlight these words on their editorial pages tomorrow…. – Boston Globe, 7-3-11
  • Steven Greiert: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Steven Greiert, a history professor at Missouri Western State University, said a surprising number of people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which came more than a decade later.
    “I think it’s very important that Americans spend time looking at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to really understand what went on at that time,” Dr. Greiert said. “Know the difference between the two documents.”
    The document that declared the states independent from British rule meant something different to the men who drafted it than what it means to citizens today. “All men are created equal” was written by men who owned slaves, and nearly 100 years before the 15th amendment, which prohibits denying a person (male) the right to vote on “account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
    “What they really were saying was that all white men should have equal opportunity,” Dr. Greiert said of the drafters, many of whom were wealthy landowners. Women wouldn’t be considered “equal,” where voting was concerned, until 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written…. – News Press Now, 7-4-11
  • Michael Steiner: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Michael Steiner, a history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, references the study of historian Richard Shenkman, who said the public has a hard time accepting that the Founding Fathers “stooped to playing politics.” The public might also have a hard time swallowing that the founders didn’t approve of a popular vote for presidential elections.
    “Less well known is that the Founding Fathers didn’t particularly want the Electoral College to make the decision either,” wrote the author. “The expectation was that in most cases the electors would deadlock, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives.”
    Dr. Steiner said the more his students read about the Founding Fathers, the more human the drafters become.
    “And I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We create this mythic infallibility around them that is simply inaccurate. We want them to be better than they were. But they were normal living and breathing human beings like you and me. Thank goodness.”… – News Press Now, 7-4-11
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