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Do we know why we are celebrating?

Published 8:08am Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Monday we celebrated the Fourth of July.

But did we celebrate Independence Day?

We all know how to have a good Fourth of July celebration. We just have to make sure there is food, fireworks, and fun – and plenty of all three. But have we lost sight of what we’re celebrating?

A Marist poll, which was released Friday, shows that many Americans don’t.

According to the poll, only 58 percent of Americans know when the country declared independence. Nearly a fourth of those participating in the poll said they were unsure and 16 percent answered with something other than 1776 – the date the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Young people, ages 18 to 29, scored the worst. Forty-one percent said they were unsure and another 27 percent gave an incorrect answer.

That’s troubling, but it doesn’t just stop with the date.

One in four Americans doesn’t even know which country the United States fought to gain its independence. For those of you out there that might be unsure, it was Great Britain. Twenty percent of the poll’s participants were unsure of that fact.

Again, age made a big difference. Americans between the ages 30 to 44 guessed the wrong country more than any other age group. Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 were wrong less, but only because most chose not to answer because they were unsure which country American won its independence from.

How can we celebrate Independence Day if we don’t at the very least understand the basics of what we are celebrating?

I’m sure if the Founding Fathers could see these poll results they would be rolling over in their graves.

This poll points to a problem. We obviously need to do a better job of educating our children about our country’s history.

They need to know that the Fourth of July is about more than flashy fireworks shows, watermelon and grilling out.

They need to understand that it’s a celebration of freedom that was purchased by people who were willing to die for what was not much more than an idea at the time.

They need to know these words.

“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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

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