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Independence Day's Importance

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
"Beer, family gatherings and fireworks! Gosh, I love the Fourth of July!"

"Ah, yes, you unwittingly illustrate a growing challenge with Independence Day: too many Americans are unaware of the holiday's real importance."

"That there are also terrific mattress sales?"

"A few years ago, a Marist Poll asked Americans which year the United States declared its independence. Only 58 percent knew that the answer was 1776."

"I thought it was 1920. Or was that when the government banned hooch?"

"Some Americans didn't know that America declared independence from Great Britain. Though 76 percent knew the U.S. broke away from Great Britain, 19 percent were unsure and 5 percent mentioned another country."

"Great Britain? I thought we declared our independence from Canada."

"What's worse is that the younger the individual, the less he or she knew about the history of Independence Day."

"What is the history of Independence Day?"

"In the late 1700s, America was comprised of 13 British colonies that had been founded between 1607 and 1732. Americans were plenty tired of British rule and taxation without American representation, so they did something about it."

"Wrote a letter to the editor?"

"No. On Sept. 5, 1774, they established the Continental Congress. On that day, says, delegates from each of the colonies 'met in Philadelphia as the First Continental Congress to organize colonial resistance to Parliament's Coercive Acts, a series of measures imposed by the British government on the colonies in response to their resistance to new taxes.'"

"I'll bet the Brits were none too happy about that."

"They were even less happy in April 1775. That is when the Continental Congress formally began the American Revolution."

"Didn't America issue the Declaration of Independence first?"

"No, the Continental Congress didn't formally declare independence from Britain until July 2, 1776."

"That was the date Thomas Jefferson finished his draft of the Declaration of Independence?"

"Nope. According to, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft in June 1776. And he didn't write it alone. The Continental Congress appointed a five-person group to write it. The group included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. Though Jefferson wrote the first draft, it was changed 86 times by other members of the committee and the Continental Congress."

"Then why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 rather than July 2?"

"July 2 was the day that the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence. On July 4, after two days of discussion and debate, they agreed on the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. THAT is why today we celebrate American independence on July 4."

"I'm still confused."

"Well, there should be no confusion around one point: The purpose of Independence Day is to remember our unique origin and history - to understand why America has flourished beyond anyone's wildest imagination."

"The reason?"

"The National Center for Constitutional Studies says that America has become 'a place of liberty and opportunity for countless millions of people from all over the world' because of the ideas envisioned by our founders. 'Their ideas work­ed, because they were based on enduring principles which recognized human imperfection and the need to structure a limited government of laws, dependent upon the consent of a people who, themselves, understood the principles.'"

"But every year, fewer Americans understand those principles?"

"Unfortunately. That's why the Fourth is a great day to help younger generations understand how our constitutional republic works - because that will be the only way, warned Benjamin Franklin, that we will keep it."

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