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Adams’ patriotism was inspiring

Say, “Independence Day,” and I think of fireworks, cookouts, watermelons, swimming — my memories of July Fourth, celebrating as a kid at the city pool and later as an adult enjoying a day off from work.

For me, probably for most of us, Independence Day is about fun, being with family and friends or relaxing. But this year I’ve given more thought to the meaning and reason for its observance.

Maybe it is because of the challenges facing our country on this Independence Day or because we just elected a new president. For whatever reason, this July 4th means more to me. So I wanted to understand the hearts of our founding fathers, the emotions on that first Independence Day.

What I discovered were John Adams’ words. When I was a young girl, I read about the life of John and Abigail Adams and it captured my imagination. What I didn’t remember from my reading was that John Adams inspired the passage of the Declaration of Independence. It was his stirring speech that convinced members of the Continental Congress to declare independence.

Adams, in his early 40s, was both elated and realistic as he wrote to his wife following the declaration’s passage. At the time, he thought July 2 would be celebrated.

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America,” he wrote. “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival …”

And though he was elated, Adams understood independence would not come without a price.

“You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.”

Adams understood that the strength of the young nation was its citizens’ resolve to be free. He also said the revolution began before 1776 in the hearts and minds of the colonists and was “first and foremost an intellectual revolution.”

And his prediction that freedom would not come easily proved true. One author described what happened to those early patriots.

“Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war,” the author wrote. “Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his thirteen children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned.”

So as I enjoy July 4, 2009, I’ll remember John Adams and all of those who dreamed the dream of a free America and paid the price to make that dream come true. I’ll recall what Adams said when asked to provide a toast for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Independence, which was also the day he died.

His toast was simply two words, “Independence forever.”