As we look forward to observing the upcoming Independence Day celebration on July 4th with family and friends, we couldn’t help by reflect back on the 56 brave men of our Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. As they penned their names at the bottom of the Declaration on that historic day of July 4th, 1776, in Philadelphia, they understood that such action put them and their loved ones at great risk.
The essence of their famous prose makes our hearts stir yet today. And it stirred the hearts of our immigrant ancestors who came to this land in search of a new life and freedom, our fellow countrymen who arrived here in chains and persevered to seek freedom for themselves or their descendants, and oppressed people around the world who aspire to be free today:
“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…”
The Declaration that,
“…these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown…”
was treasonous—and the penalty for treason was death. Although none of the signers were executed by the British (contrary to popular myth), several men were jailed; many had their homes, farms, and possessions destroyed; and some family members were imprisoned or fled for their lives.
The July 4th celebration is just that—a celebration—but it is also an opportunity to reflect on the courage and sacrifice our founding fathers made at the birth of our country. This capacity for courage and sacrifice has been displayed by men and women throughout our history—to define and preserve our freedoms, secure our Republic, fight for civil and human rights, and honor human dignity, both at home and abroad.
Also recall one man in particular who restored our country’s most visible symbol of freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty. The late President Ronald Reagan put into motion the mammoth task of restoring the Statue back in May of 1982.
Lady Liberty originally was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, in recognition of our mutual friendship from the time of the American Revolution. She was commissioned in 1876 as a joint effort—France providing the Statue, the American people building its pedestal—and monies were raised on this side of the Atlantic by benefit art exhibits, theatrical events, auctions, and other private means. Ten years later, the project was completed and the Statue was dedicated in 1886. Both the Statue and the island she inhabited were declared a national monument in 1924. Then, in 1965, Ellis Island was transferred as part of the monument, in recognition of America’s largely immigrant roots and the Statue’s message of hope and freedom for immigrants coming to America.
By the time President Reagan took office in 1981, Lady Liberty was in bad shape and needed major restoration. Intuitively understanding her importance as a visible symbol of freedom and hope for Americans and for people around the globe, he decided to act: he appointed Lee Iacocca to raise funds through the private sector for a public-private partnership that included the National Park Service and Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. This was the most successful public-private partnership in American history and, together, they raised $87 million to restore the Statue. During the restoration process, as Lady Liberty stood enshrouded in mammoth scaffolding, the United Nations designated her as a World Heritage Site. Finally, on July 5th, 1986, Lady Liberty was re-opened to the public during Liberty Weekend, an event that included one of the largest fireworks displays were in the world.
All of us at The Souza Agency wish you a wonderful — and safe — 4th of July.
Happy Birthday, America!
“Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.” —President Ronald Reagan