The summer I turned 5, our nation turned 200 years old. I clearly remember that my small town painted all the fire hydrants red, white and blue and the route of our annual Fourth of July parade was ablaze with flags and bunting.
I was too young to know exactly what a bicentennial was, but I did know the United States was having a birthday and we were celebrating it. I’m pretty sure that summer was the year I learned the words to Yankee Doodle Dandy.
After the parade there was a band in the park and then we, like most, spent the rest of the day with friends and family.
We took turns running through our sprinkler. I had training wheels on my bike, and my sister and brother weaved streamers in the spokes and we rode our decorated bikes up and down the street.
We ate hot dogs and hamburgers. Dessert was slices of cake decorated with strawberries and blueberries to resemble the stars and stripes of the flag. We ended the night one town over watching the fireworks or, in the case of my grandmother, home watching the fireworks on the television.
IT WILL BE CELEBRATED WITH POMP AND PARADE, BONFIRES AND ILLUMINATIONS FROM ONE END OF THIS CONTINENT TO THE OTHER.
That summer was a big one for me. I was growing older and was going to start kindergarten at the end of it. Our country was growing as well. Everyone sensed it.
Despite my best efforts, I’ve continued to get older. Like this country, I have continued to grow. I’m not the same person I was five, 10 or 20 years ago. I like to think I’ve matured, and as part of growing older, somehow I’ve become a bit wiser along the way.
And though I am by no means perfect, the seeds I was planted with haven’t changed and these 35 words still guide me: Love your family. Work hard. Be a good friend. Keep learning. Treat others well. Respect those who have gone before you. Every action has a consequence. Practice gratitude. Learn to forgive. Be kind. Laugh often.
As a country we are not perfect; we are still growing and learning, and there are still changes to be made. But we are not the country we were 50, 100 or 200 years ago. I like to think we’ve become older, wiser and that we will continue to grow and fix the things that need fixing.
The seeds of our democracy haven’t changed, and I hope these 35 words continue to guide us.
“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.”
Have a safe and Happy Fourth.
SASHA SWEENEY Co-publisher firstname.lastname@example.org