By Congressman Michael Turner
On July 4th, we commemorate the 234th anniversary of signing of the Declaration of Independence. On this uniquely American holiday, we celebrate our democracy with fireworks and with patriotic displays of the “Stars and Stripes.”
The United States is the world’s oldest surviving democracy, and Independence Day is our annual celebration of this historic experiment in self government.
The Founding Fathers considered Independence Day an important occasion for rejoicing. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams wrote:
“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.”
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The author of the Declaration of Independence reflected on these immortal words in the last letter he ever wrote, ten days before the 50th anniversary of America’s independence: “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them." Both Adams and Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826, on the 50th birthday of the Nation they helped create.
George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence because he had left Philadelphia to take charge of the Continental Army. At Washington’s request, the Nation’s unofficial first flag was raised near his headquarters outside Boston. That flag, the Grand Union Flag, consisted of the familiar 13 alternating red and white horizontal stripes, along with the British Union Flag. The Grand Union Flag remained our unofficial flag until the Continental Congress formally adopted the “Stars and Stripes.” Last month, the House passed a bill I cosponsored (H.RES.420), celebrating Flag Day, June 14, the anniversary of the official adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress in 1777.
The flag of the United States is a symbol of freedom and democracy recognized around the world. Americans with a diverse range of backgrounds, opinions, and experiences universally fill with pride at the sight of “Old Glory.” The photograph of the U.S. Marines raising the flag during the battle of Iwo Jima, and pictures of the firefighters defiantly hoisting the flag skyward among the ruins of the Twin Towers, and unfurling the flag over the shattered Pentagon on 9/11, are images that define the American character. The American flag remains the only nation’s flag planted on the surface of the moon.
The high regard that Americans have for our flag is reflected in the high volume of constituent requests my office receives for flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol. Since 1937, the Architect of the Capitol has made available for purchase, flags that have flown over the Capitol. The Architect of the Capitol fulfills more than 100,000 flag requests from Members of the House and Senate each year. With six weeks’ notice, a flag can be flown on a specific date to commemorate a birthday, retirement, anniversary, or other special occasion. All flags flown over the Capitol are made in the USA.
Flags are available in nylon and cotton, and come in three sizes (3’x 5’ – 4’x 6’ – 5’x 8’). Each flag comes with a certificate of authenticity from the Architect of the Capitol. The certificate can be personalized to reflect the occasion. If you or your neighbors would like to honor an individual, or a special occasion, or simply want to show your patriotism by flying an American flag at your home, please this page on my website, for complete information and ordering instructions.
The Fourth of July is more than a holiday for parades, picnics, and fireworks. It is an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on a cherished privilege we call freedom.