This year, Americans will safely celebrate July 4th with fireworks and socially distanced gatherings. It will be the first time we, the people, ring in a national independence holiday under the continued awareness of a pandemic virus and social unrest. And, yet, it will not be the first time our country feels the heavy weight and responsibility to continue forward as a nation together. In 1977, the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, marked the first annual July 4th celebration while Congress charted battles and losses in an ongoing war.

July 4th, 1942 was a quieter holiday in the United States as citizens traded boisterous celebrations with sensitive respect for all those fighting across seas “to preserve the liberties and decencies of modern civilizations”, as President Roosevelt remarked. Some American citizens at home were required to work for wartime efforts, not taking liberty in the day off. Others were reminded that freedom comes with a price as thoughts turned to family members, oceans away, who spent that day fighting.

When we look back at the Independence Day celebrations in this land, many have been spent in trepidation for the future of our nation, countrymen and country ladies. This country courageously celebrated her birthday through the devastating poverty, plague and economic fragility of the 1800s. It held on through a great depression, two world wars, a national civil rights movement, presidential scandals, a cold war and Cambodian conflict, the Gulf War and the first terrorist attack on American soil which tallied more than 8,000 victims. Yet, if history is a measuring line for the future, then America’s future has an advocate in predictability. Nearly 245 years after the first parade of independence, we continue to grow and learn to celebrate life together through the difficult times. Maybe that is what 2020’s celebration will mark: the history of promise we have experienced as a people who rally, reflect and redefine ourselves through trying circumstances.

Happy Birthday, America, and may we all remember the times that challenged us to become stronger, and all the ways that struggle has pulled us closer together as one.

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