Four years ago, I wrote a column titled "America Needs a July Fourth Seder." In it, I explained that "national memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies." Many readers and listeners to my radio show responded by creating their own rituals to make the day far more meaningful than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.
I now present a simple 10-minute ceremony that every American can easily use on July Fourth. It is a product of the Internet-based Prager University that I founded nearly two years ago. We call it the Fourth of July Declaration, and here it is. (A paginated and printed version can be downloaded at the website www.prageruniversity.com).
It begins with a note to the individual leading the ritual, the "host."
NOTE TO HOST *
We hope this day finds you, your family and your friends in good health, enjoying another glorious Fourth together. We all love barbecues, parties and fireworks, but if that's all the Fourth of July is about, the day has lost its meaning and we lose a vital connection to our American past.
Welcome to our Fourth of July Declaration!
We have modeled this Declaration on the best-known commemoration of a historical event in the world -- the Jewish Passover meal. It has successfully kept the memory of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt alive for over 3,000 years.
As Americans, we need to reconnect with our Founding. We need to rediscover the meaning of our country's creation. And we need to do it every year. That is the reason for ritual -- to enable us to remember. Without ritual, the memory fades. And without memory, life -- whether of the individual or of a nation -- loses its meaning.
That's where this Fourth of July Declaration comes in.
In keeping with the philosophy of Prager University that profound concepts can be taught in five minutes, this Declaration is brief.
If you follow this simple ceremony, this holiday will not just be another barbecue. It will be the meaningful day it was meant to be: a celebration of the birth of our exceptional country, the United States of America.
You are encouraged to add more to your Fourth of July Declaration. This ceremony is only a starting point. But even doing this minimum will mean a lot -- to you, to your family and friends, and to the nation.
* Feel free to read this "note to host" to those assembled at your celebration of the day.
MATERIALS AND FOOD NEEDED FOR THE CEREMONY
-- Iced Tea
-- Salty pretzels
-- Strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. (But any goodie colored red, white and blue will do.)
-- A small bell
The ringer on your cell phone will do in a pinch