What to teach your child about July 4

June 29, 2012|Lisa Prejean

At some point over the course of the next week, most families will experience a fireworks display.

After all, what would the Fourth of July be without fanfare and moments to reflect on our freedom?

During the course of the picnicking and sky gazing, opportunities abound for family discussions on the origins of our great nation.

What should you discuss with your children and grandchildren?

That’s a good question, and it is one best answered with the origins of Independence Day, or the Fourth of July.

Independence Day is an official holiday in the United States, recognizing our country’s birthday. On July 4, 1776, our forefathers adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document written by Thomas Jefferson that declared our independence from Britain’s King George.

The document begins with these familiar words, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another ...”

It further proclaims that “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.”

Jefferson succinctly summarized the colonists’ convictions on the importance of individual liberty. The government cannot tell us where we will go to college, where we will work or who we will marry. We enjoy individual freedom of choice because of the ideals expressed in this document.

That is something to celebrate. The document was celebrated by the 2.5 million people living in the newly independent country in 1776, and it will be celebrated this July 4th by the 313.9 million people who today call America home.

Those freedoms have been granted over time and were by no means an easy victory for the colonists to proclaim. In the seven years following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our country’s forces, led by General George Washington, fought the British in the American Revolutionary War. It was a brutal war for the early Americans. More than 25,000 colonists died in active military service. About 8,000 of those died in battle. More than 17,000 died of disease or starvation.

They were true heroes, and their lives deserve our gratitude and reflection, especially on the Fourth of July.

I don’t think we need to feel guilty about celebrating. We just need to remember that some paid a high price for our liberty. Would that they were here to celebrate, too.

Check out these sources for more information about Independence Day and the Revolutionary War:

• “And What About ... Patriotic Holidays” by Amanda Bennett

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send email to her at

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