July 4th, 2009 marks the 233rd anniversary of our nation’s independence.
It seems like only yesterday that our country celebrated its Bicentennial with fireworks, flags and bunting, and a commemorative coin. I remember the excitement, patriotism, and sense of community expressed throughout the metropolitan area and across the country on July 4, 1976. On that perfect summer evening, our little family watched the fireworks burst over the Pentagon and the monuments from slopes of the Navy Annex above the Pentagon. People started arriving hours earlier, and there was a great sense of excitement and camaraderie among everyone, friends and strangers alike. Gerald Ford was president, the Vietnam War activities were winding down, and a sense of quiet strength and peace could be felt as spectators watched the explosions of color against a clear night sky.
A lot has changed since 1976. The Air Force Memorial occupies the space where we watched the fireworks that night. A glance across the roadway takes the eye on a trajectory to the Pentagon Memorial honoring the 184 people killed at the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77 during the attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. Our nation has endured countless struggles at home and abroad; testing our strength and resolve. When our challenges appeared insurmountable, we somehow always found a way to prevail.
As we celebrate the 233rd anniversary of our country’s independence, let’s take a moment to enjoy a traditional neighborhood barbecue or picnic — or maybe it will be pupusas, fried rice, or hummus and pita bread — and watch the fireworks display on the National Mall, on television or in person with the National Symphony Orchestra’s extraordinary concert of martial music. Make the celebration as memorable as possible, for this day also is a reminder that we continue to possess the resilience to move this country forward in the tradition of our forefathers, who felt the same when they gathered to fight for our nation’s independence. We have faced many changes in our nation’s history, but our successes have been possible because we are a united people. Regardless of where we were born or grew up, we all share the core values that have defined this nation for more than 200 years: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, educational and economic opportunities for all! I wish you a safe, happy, and memorable Fourth of July.