We Hold These Truths
Jay shares thoughts on the true significance of Independence Day.
“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.”
These are perhaps the best known – and arguably the most powerful words in the English language. They convey a thought that is simple – but immediately understood. A thought that is powerful partly because it is self-evident. And a thought that inspired our Founding Fathers to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to declare their independence from Great Britain and then go on to create the freest and greatest nation in the history of the world.
This weekend we will celebrate the 4th of July - Independence Day - the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Fireworks, barbecues, family, ice cream cones stacked high. These are just a few of the things that come to mind when one hears the words 4th of July. It’s one of the best days or weekends of the summer, depending on where it falls. With school being out and maybe a little extra vacation time, the festivities of the 4th always tend to have a uniquely special feel to them. In many ways, they tend to embody the reason we even celebrate the holiday at all. Not just the commemoration of the independence of our nation, but the establishment of a set of inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as laid down in the Declaration.
These words, and these rights, may come as second nature to us now, but there was a time in the world when they weren’t the norm, but the exception. And as history has taught us, to uphold and regularly enjoy these rights comes with a cost. As our nation is currently faced with new challenges at home and abroad, it’s more important than ever that on this Fourth of July, we remember what they mean both symbolically and as a legal precedent, not only in relationship to our own democracy, but to the world. Our nation is in a regular state of evolution, constantly striving to be a “more perfect union” as was described in the preamble of our Constitution. We have had our fair share of turmoil over the course of our history. Yet regardless of age, race, ethnicity, at the core of our identity as a nation and as a people has been a steadfast commitment to, and pursuit of, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness by all Americans. And, in order to continually become a more perfect union, the preservation of those inalienable rights must always be our priority.
When it was first drafted, the Declaration of Independence used the word ‘property’ in place of ‘happiness’. However, after much debate it was changed to happiness, which for some meant that each American was left to his or her own devices to decide what their own definition of happiness was and how they’d pursue it, the origins of “the American Dream”. Legal scholars have debated its meaning in the context of the Declaration since its inception. Yet in a very uncomplicated way, I follow the logic of those who believe it to mean that each American is guaranteed the ability to freely live, in the pursuit of happiness, as we each define it. And as we go out and celebrate this weekend, remember that by doing so, it’s thanks to the rights that were guaranteed to us 246 years ago and that continue to be important foundations for our American way of life today.
What's Happening This 4th!
The 4th of July is an opportunity to show our love for freedom, our commitment to democracy, and just how proud we are to be Americans on our nation’s birthday. Events of all kinds occur during this weekend in towns and cities across America and I couldn’t be more excited. There are parades, commemorations in village squares and celebrations of all variety. In fact, I remember running for Governor in 1998 and my staff jam-packing the 4th with parades, picnics, and fireworks! It was one of my fondest memories on the campaign trail and was so very moving to see how passionate we are in showing off our patriotism and honoring our American values.
Now if you haven’t already made your 4th of July plans, here are some cool things to check out. And maybe I'll even see you at one or more of these events!.
The Conway region has got you covered the whole weekend as you can participate in a myriad of freedom festivals starting on July 2nd with Fireworks at the Village Green in Jackson, hit up the Conway Independence Fair on July 3rd, and take part in parades all over the region on the 4th. With so many opportunities, it’s easy to find something that fits your schedule and I encourage you to take part in these fun, important events.
For those in the Lakes Region, you can partake in the Laconia Parade, enjoy the fireworks launched from Opechee Park, and see all the amazing boats at Naswa resort. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Wolfeboro and their fantastic 4th of July Parade that kicks off at 10am on the 4th. Right after the parade you can head over to the Wright Museum and see one of New England’s finest WWII museums.
Not feeling parades? Then choose a baseball game at Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The Fisher Cats are home on the 4th, and you can cheer on the future stars of the Major Leagues as they take on the Portland Sea Dogs. The evening is capped off with one of the coolest fireworks displays around.
Rather than going on about my favorites, here’s a great way to find what best suits your celebration tastes and schedules. My friend Lucy Lange and her team have compiled quite a list of parades, fireworks, and other activities happening on the 4th. I encourage you all to visit Manchester Radio Group’s website at https://965themill.com/2022/06/25/firecracker-fourth-2022/
The Declaration of Independence – The Rest of the Story
The 4th of July is upon us and as we think about the Declaration of Independence, we usually make note of the signers. We also reflect on how the signers came together to craft, debate, and ultimately sign the document. However, the ‘signing’ was only the beginning. Here are some little-known tidbits about what happened to the document after the signing took place.
First, once the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, over 100 copies were printed by John Dunlap to be distributed on horseback announcing the exciting news of independence throughout the thirteen colonies.
A few of these documents made their way to New Hampshire. One was sent to Portsmouth and read in front of the original State House in Market Square on July 18th, 1776. Of course, Portsmouth has ties with one of the signers, General William Whipple, who was at the time recently elected to the Continental Congress and had served as an Executive Councilor.
Interestingly, two days beforehand, there was a reading of the document at the other State House in Exeter. The capital had been moved inland because threats of invasion were possible due to Portsmouth being located on the coast. There the state treasurer’s son, John Taylor Gilman, had the honor of reading this important document. After the reading, it was sent to the local printers and no one thought much of the original printed copy, as it was assumed that document would be kept with the Gilman family.
In 1985, the Gilman family home, which had been purchased by the Society of the Cincinnati in 1905, needed some electrical work done to its security system. While working in the attic, a pile of papers was found, and amongst them was the original copy of the Declaration of Independence that Gilman had read in 1776! Work was stopped and in 1991 the American Independence Museum was founded and remains in operation in the Gilman house till this day.
The copy that was found in Exeter was in a much more pristine condition than the original Declaration of Independence, for several reasons. The Dunlap copy was a print version of the Declaration. In other words, unlike the original – it was not ‘handwritten’ but was set in type – as were the other versions in the one hundred copies that were distributed. Meanwhile, however, later there was an attempt to ‘copy’ the original document. Unfortunately, however, in 1817 before photographs were invented the original became victim to a terrible copying process called the wet-transfer process. The document was soaked with water while another piece of paper was laid on top of it and pressed to transfer the copy from one piece of paper to the other. The process accounts for why the original is so faded as seen today. If you’re interested in seeing a water-pressed faded copy of the original document, you can see one at the New Hampshire State Archives in Concord. It is one of a handful known to have survived to this day. Meanwhile – if you’d like to see a more legible, pristine copy of the printed version, make it a point to go to Exeter and visit the American Independence Museum. It, definitely, will be worth the trip!
Positive Profile of the Week: Steve Pelkey - He Makes the 4th Come Alive!
Steve Pelkey is the man that makes the 4th of July happen in New Hampshire. Steve is a longtime resident of Jaffrey, NH who has the monumental task of providing most of the state’s fireworks via his company, Atlas Pyrotechnics. Steve has turned the company into a thriving family business where four of his six daughters work today. This is a uniquely New Hampshire experience as our friends to the immediately to the south have banned fireworks. It is probably no coincidence that Steve’s business is conveniently located on the Massachusetts’ border so that their good citizens can get a taste of the freedoms we enjoy here in New Hampshire every day!
Steve has a lifetime of service being a veteran of the Air Force serving as a munitions’ specialist until 1986 when he began his career with Atlas. He would later go on to serve his local community in Jaffrey as the Chamber of Commerce President and then again as a State Representative from 2004-2008. While his passion for public service is well known, he now serves the entire state by orchestrating fireworks shows at weddings, community celebrations and other key events including the 4th of July! So, this weekend when you are enjoying firecrackers, sparklers, or even the occasional aerial shell, be sure to thank Steve for helping to make it happen! Steve, we appreciate your spectacular efforts!
Quotes of the Week: Independence Day
"We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."
"Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country."
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."
John F. Kennedy
"America is another name for opportunity."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The essence of America — that which really unites us — is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea — and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn't matter where you come from, but where you are going."