July 5, 2001
The remote was pretty busy last night. It led to a somber conclusion to a great day.
After a busy day, my family spent the evening at home. Our little boy had flirted with a high-grade temperature all day and our little girl hit the sack early. The lovely redhead and I decided to catch fireworks on television.
For once, I was glad that my taxes helped fund PBS. The network carried the fireworks program from the Washington Mall. NBC threw a party in New York and ABC had the second best location (or maybe the best) in Philadelphia. Not sure what CBS was up to, every time I flipped over there I saw four girls running around with blood all over them and a guy sticking a 45 with a silencer on it up people's noses.
Still, it was the Washington display that best stirred my heart. Despite some hokey numbers by people who couldn't seem to carry a tune along with bucket-loads of rain it ranks the highest on the patriotic meter. Things started cooking once the 1812 Overture started up with the polished U.S. Army howitzers pounding away. The fireworks burst for over 15 minutes above the Washington Memorial.
What a wonderful sight to see all those citizens standing on the steps of the Capitol Building gazing across the reflecting pool. Of course, some were even enjoying the fireworks from within the pool. As the camera caught old Abe Lincoln sitting watching the display, you could almost see the beginnings of a smile.
The New York Macy's fireworks show was okay. Harry Connick, Jr. fit the party atmosphere and his laid back approach to the holiday. Call me a traditionalist, but I kept turning back to the Washington display. The over the top entertainment and unabashed promotion of NBC personalities left me with an empty feeling.
The ABC program was my second favorite. It was to me the most thought provoking. The centerpiece of the evening was one of only 25 original prints of the Declaration of Independence. When I first flipped over to ABC, a close up of Garth Brooks filled the screen. He was warbling something about “Then we will be free.” I’m not sure what point he was making. I thought we already were.
Morgan Freeman really got me to thinking. Now, I don’t know much about Morgan Freeman. Not being much of a movie watcher, I think I saw him in The Shawshank Redemption. “Liberal” typically is the label that first comes to mind when I think of any Hollywood type when it comes to philosophy and politics. So, as Mr. Freeman began to speak, I thought, “Oh, here we go again.”
Mr. Freeman began speaking about the document around which the program was centered. The descriptions of the historical events did seem to confirm my impressions of his philosophical and political views. He went on to talk about Thomas Jefferson and question how a man could write such an incredible document about freedom and liberty and yet own slaves. The whole thing was pretty negative. However, don’t stop reading.
Typically, I would have expected most Hollywood types to stop right there. Mr. Freeman did not. He said, “Now, you might ask why I would speak this way on a night when we are here to celebrate this great document.” (My apologies to Mr. Freeman, but I must paraphrase.) Yep, that was exactly what I was thinking. He went on to say that he had the answer to the question of how this document could be written by a man who seemed to contradict the words he wrote. Chalk one up for Morgan Freeman.
The Declaration of Independence is the setting forth of an ideal. It was a call to the Colonies to leave behind the bondage of British rule and embark on a new experiment. The goal could not be reached overnight. The struggles to obtain that ideal would not be easy. We, even today, face these struggles—and we will yet tomorrow. Mr. Freeman offered himself as an example of how these ideals have shaped the dreams of many throughout the 225 years the document has existed. “I don’t believe the Continental Congress envisioned that I, a black man, would be speaking about this document they ratified.”
He is probably right—but he could be wrong. Who knows for sure what kind of world Thomas Jefferson envisioned would come as people began to reach for the ideal he set forth? We can only take him at his word. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It is good for us to remember that we are not perfect. The ideal has not been reached. The experiment is not over. Yet, look at what so many have accomplished. Remember what so many have sacrificed to keep the dream alive. Patriots are still willing to sacrifice. Dreams are still dreamed. Guided by the Creator and the Constitution, the future can be as bright as a lighted Macy’s logo beneath a smoke-filled fireworks display.