Friday, May 3, 2013

How Can You Appreciate A Country You Do Not Know

Above is a You Tube video of a guy who decided to go to a California beach on July 4th to see how much the general public knows about the history of this patriotic holiday.   As entertaining as it is to watch peoples' responses, the video demonstrates what statistics are showing:  that many Americans don't even know the basics of our country's heritage.

According to a poll conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, only 58 percent of Americans could tell you the date America declared its independence.  In this same poll, one in four Americans did not know which country we gained our independence from.   In a poll conducted by U.S. Mint, only 57 percent of Americans knew that George Washington led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and only 57 percent knew that Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

The internet is loaded with opinions on why Americans are so ignorant of their history.  The purpose of this article is not to enter a debate about the "why's" of Americans' historical illiteracy.  Rather, this post is meant to challenge us all to become more pro-active about remembering and honoring our roots.  Independence Day provides a perfect platform for doing this. 

In the 1800s, July 4th was more than just a party.  At these events, patriotic hymns were sung, prayers of gratitude were given, long speeches about our nation's past were recited for younger generations to hear, and toasts were made to honor our nation's first leaders.  Sure, they had the picnics and fireworks.  But those things were just the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself.   Maybe if we look to the example of our 19th Century ancestors, we can be more intentional on America's birthday and re-discover the "heart and soul" of this patriotic event.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." - George Washington

  "A frequent recurrence to fundamental absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and keep a government free." Ben Franklin

 "Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers." -Former Librarian of Congress, Daniel Boorstin. 


-Oregon Spectator (U of O Libraries)- many articles about Oregon's first July 4th celebrations.