Jackie Gingrich Cushman

The Fourth of July brings to mind American Flags, parades, fireworks, BBQ and, where I live, country music. If you are like me, the start of the national anthem causes you to stand up, place your hand over your heart and look around for the United States flag. Tears well in your eyes, your chest swells and you are thankful to be an American. If the national anthem is followed by a rendition of Lee Greenwoods’ God Bless the USA, it can lead to swaying, hugging and tears streaming down your face.

My earliest memories of July 4th include a parade made up of a few cars and a fire truck in a small town in Georgia in the early 1970s. The parade traveled so fast that, instead of walking the route and shaking hands, we drove and waved out of the back window of our car (with Dad’s campaign sign on the top, of course).

And that was just the early morning parade. Our July 4ths often ended, after numerous other parades and BBQ’s, with our family watching fireworks at the lake in our hometown of Carrollton. These memories made a lasting impact on me and helped me understand and appreciate the importance of being an American.

Last week, my daughter Maggie and I were in Washington where we visited the National Archives . It houses the Charters of Freedom, which include the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Together these documents form the foundation of our nation.

As we waited in line at the rotunda to see these Charters of Freedom, Maggie asked, “What do these mean?” I explained to her that The Declaration of Independence is like her birth certificate, that it is the document that records the birth of our country. July 4th, the date of its signing, is celebrated as our country’s birthday. Now this is a concept that she can understand, birthdays are important and cause for celebration in our family.

Maggie then asked what she would be if the United States had not been born. “An English subject,” I replied. Her eyes widened as she began to absorb the meaning. She decided that she was glad that the United States was born, as am I.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.