America observes the 238th Independence Day celebration this Friday, July 4. And most Americans are looking forward to another long weekend to have a mini-vacation, to have family reunions, to launch fireworks and watch grand fireworks displays, and most of all, to party.
In 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail, his wife, after the independence from Britain was declared that the future generations of Americans should observe the day with pomp, parades, fireworks and other activities. And to show their political agenda and patriotism, American presidents had, through the years, planned the commemoration of the Fourth of July based in the ideals for the particular day, to fit it to the current issues.
President Obama's celebration this year
This year, just like last year, President Obama is planning to have a barbecue for service members of the military. American University librarian emeritus, James Heintze, who has been studying the July Fourth activities of several U.S. presidents says that they attempt to symbolize what is on the mind of Americans at that specific time.
Similar to what happened in recent years, the veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were on center stage during the Fourth of July ceremonies held at the White House. This year, aside from the traditional barbecue, President Obama will be presiding the naturalization ceremony for immigrant military members that are on active duty and their spouses, as well as the reservists and veterans. As the President announced earlier in the week, the Fourth of July will be their first day as official citizens of America.
Celebrations in the past
Over the years, the celebration had evolved from being a low-key event to something that is pompous and grand. Back then, when the national capital was still in New York City and later in Philadelphia, President George Washington and John Adams celebrated the event with toned-down commemorations. By the way, President Adams actually believed that the American Independence Day should be celebrated on July 2, which was the day that the Continental Congress approved the resolution for the country's independence.
However, through the years, it was celebrated on July 4, which was the day that the actual Declaration of Independence document was approved by Congress. Back in those days, the White House was open to the public and past presidents greeted large groups of people, in contrast to Fourth of July celebrations in the White House in recent decades that are by-invitation only and under heavy security.
Mr. Heintze also added that many presidents visited famous historical places as part of their Fourth of July itineraries, such as the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Valley Forge and Gettysburg.
There were also sad moments that occurred on July 4, such as the passing of two past presidents, Jefferson and Adams on the same day in 1826 and James Monroe in 1831. There are happy moments as well. Past American president Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872, and presidential daughter Malia Obama will be turning 16 this Friday. She was born on July 4, 1998.
But while you are busy with your activities for the Fourth of July, do remember to keep safe. Excessive drinking, falling down the stairs, and the dangers of using pyrotechnics have sent many Americans to the emergency room during the observance of Independence Day.