It is not too late. July Fourth is still two days away. As I drive through my subdivision, it is a rarity to see an American flag displayed at any of the neighboring homes. Maybe I have gone overboard. A full-size American flag is waving proudly from a bracket on my large front yard tree and a small flag sprouts from each of the planters and hanging baskets.
As Americans, we are lucky. As a Licensed Counselor, I interact with many families who aren’t Americans. They often have suffered traumatic occurrences in their native land and came to the United States for refuge. Some are legalized citizens. Others are not. Most have an astounding work ethic and are responsible for many of the construction and underbelly jobs that most second or third generational Americans won’t do. A few live in fear of being sent back “home.”
Most Americans have become apathetic to our political system and the gridlock in Washington, D.C. Voting percentages for state and national elections have continued to decline. “We can’t change the system so why bother to vote?” is a phrase I hear much too often. Possibly if we native-born Americans would listen to some of the stories of courage and hardship of those who have sought asylum in this country, taking the effort to vote and the simple act of displaying an American flag might occur more often.
Remembering only a minimal amount of my Delaware Hayes High School history classes specific to this upcoming national holiday, I offer a few snippets of July Fourth trivia. Considering the difficult questions of a United States citizenship test, it is doubtful that many of us have retained enough knowledge of our country’s founding to pass the exam.
The famous painting of the Continental Congress depicts our Founding Fathers sporting their powdered wigs and formal attire, signing the newly authored Declaration of Independence collectively in the July heat of Philadelphia. In actuality, only John Hancock signed the document on July 4th of 1776. It is estimated that a month passed before all 56 members of the group had added their names with that of Hancock’s, who was the first signee. When the Declaration of Independence was authored, an estimated 2.5 million “Americans” lived in this country. Presently, our population is approaching 317 million.
Ironically both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, July Fourth of 1826. Supposedly Jefferson passed first at age 82, while Adams died five hours later, at 90.
Today’s version of our modern American flag can be credited to a high school student from nearby Lancaster, Ohio. Robert G. Heft was assigned a class project in 1960 to design a flag that included the stars of recent statehood additions, Alaska and Hawaii. Upon submitting his prototype to the teacher, Heft was awarded a paltry “B-“for his efforts. Frustrated, Heft sent his design to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to plead for a higher grade. President Eisenhower was so impressed with Heft’s ingenuity that he declared the flag restyling our country’s “official national banner,” which merited a grade change to an “A” by a potentially embarrassed Lancaster High School teacher.
Our Fourth of July menu of apple pie and hot dogs are not American-originated culinary items. Apple trees were imported from Europe, along with the recipe for apple pie. The “mystery meat” of what is included in today’s version of the “hot dog,” has no culinary chef or country claiming that first concoction of this traditional grilling staple.
And finally, the Irving Berlin song, “God Bless America” sat in the composer’s “reject” pile for more than 20 years before first being sung. Then-popular performer Kate Smith requested that Berlin write a patriotic song she could sing on the radio during wartime. Unearthing it from his discarded tunes, her introduction of the song propelled it to become the most requested on radio during either war or peacetime.
My suggestion for readers who have enjoyed today’s column, is that you will take the time to display an American flag this July Fourth holiday, especially since our modern version was created by a native Ohioan. Also, expressing your thankfulness to others that you live in this country would be an appreciated gesture. We all could be residing elsewhere in a land that is rife with war, hunger, poverty or other calamities. Please enjoy this upcoming mid-summer holiday, stay safe, and give thanks.
Mariann Main is a Delaware, Ohio native and licensed as a Counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. You can reach her directly with questions or commentary via MariannMain@GMail.com