July 3, 2012
When historian and author Paul Rahe (19:10 mark) was asked where America ranks in the history of the worlds republics, he responded, It is the greatest of the republics.
As parents of three young children, my wife and I are often thinking of ways to make the great history of our republic come alive for our little ones. Believing that America is, as Lincoln said, the last best hope of earth, we want to impress on our children those values and traditions which make our country uniqueand yes, exceptionalin world history. Independence Day offers a multitude of ways to do just that.
Ive put together a short list of ideas and activities that can help you make the glorious fourth more meaningful for your family. Whether you apply one of these ideas or better them with your ownbe intentional. It falls primarily to parents to explain the great meaning ofAmerica, to cultivate in our children a love for this nation, and to light the fires of liberty in their hearts and minds.
Here are a few ideas and activities to get you on your way:
- Sign the Declaration of Independence.
Ask the member of your family with the best handwriting (the felicity of pen as Adams said of Jefferson) to write out the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Then have each member of your family sign their names, big enough for King George to read without his spectacles. Talk about what it meant for the signers to pledge their lives, treasure and sacred honor on behalf of their new nation.
- The Declaration of Independence is a spiritual and political document.
As President Calvin Coolidge said, it is the product of the spiritual insight of the people.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
- All men are created equal.
Few nations in the world have acknowledged what our founders believed was self-evident. Namely, that all men bear the image of their Creator, and derive their rights from Godnot from the government.
Discuss with your children the struggle to abolish institutionalized slavery in America, and the ongoing effort to protect the unborn. The Declaration of Independence continues to serve as a spur to our conscience, calling us to deeds in keeping with the truths we espouse.
- Fly Old Glory.
Ask your children to help you raise the flag somewhere in your house, apartment or yard.
On June 14, 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the new nation.
Resolved, that the Flag of thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.
- Sing the National Anthem.
Ask the most musical member of your family to lead the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Read aloud the less familiar verses.
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
- Take in a parade.
This is always a favorite for our boys, especially if Opa is marching with the American Legion. Local papers usually have times and locations in your area. If theres no parade in your town, why not start one?
- Read aloud America.
This song was one obf several unofficial national anthems used until the Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted in 1931.
Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom's holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.
- Religious liberty.
In the First Amendment to our Constitution, Congress laid out the broad religious liberties that were guaranteed all Americans.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The establishment and free exercise clauses were an assurance that the federal government would not compel or impose any sect on the American people, nor would it interfere with Americans as they lived out their faith as good citizens. It was also an acknowledgement that religious belief and expression were central to the character of the American peopleand central to the founding of the republic.
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those the United States. Every step by which [we] have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. - President George Washington, Inaugural Address, 1789
Religious liberty remains the exception and not the rule in human history; that Americans may worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience is a rare and priceless gift. Its something we must not take for granted and a liberty all of us at FRC are dedicated to preserving.
Take a few minutes to exercise your religious liberty and pray for those holding offices of authority at the national, state, and local level (1 Tim 2:1-4).
- Listen to For God and Country.
If your children are old enough, they may enjoy listening to Adventures in Odysseys The Day Independence Came or The American Revelation. Complete sets and individual episodes are available online.
Take time to enjoy your family this Independence Day; acknowledge the great liberties we share, and the cost at which they were purchased, and give thanks to God Almighty for his love, mercy and provision for our nation.
[Independence Day] will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. John Adams
What activities, traditions or values would you add to this list? How does your family plan to celebrate Independence Day? Wed love for you to leave your stories in the comment section.