As we proceed from the holiday weekend into the actual Independence Day celebration on Tuesday, here is an assortment platter of thoughts about America’s birthday and how we recognize the occasion.
Oh no, here comes the history again. We’re on summer break, right? Spare us the lectures. Sorry, but to fully appreciate what the Fourth is all about, you have to know something about the time in which the Declaration of Independence was drafted as well as the personal and public risk faced by the leadership of a soon-to-be new and free nation. Thirteen colonies comprising the American sector of the massive British Empire, at war with the king of that expanse for more than a year, all for the right of self-determination and freedom to choose. With reconciliation out of the question and the gallows awaiting the leaders of what became the American Revolution, the choice of independence was the only open and clear option, no matter how fragile that union was at the time.
John Adams, a Massachusetts member of the Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia, was put in charge of a committee to make some bold statement about forever breaking ties with London. “I knew Great Britain was determined on her system, and that very determination determined me on mine,” Adams later reflected. “I had passed the Rubicon, swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country, was my unalterable determination.” As that responsibility thrust him into an important role in the founding of a country, Adams turned over the drafting of what became the Declaration of Independence to Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, already considered the best writer in the group. His initial work in this area was debated for a week before the final version of the declaration was approved on July 4, 1776, the day the United States of America was born.
Jefferson later noted that he wasn’t trying to establish new principles with this document or “to say things which had never been said before, but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject … It was intended to be an expression of the American mind.” Think of it: Cutting bonds with a mother land and creating a new nation on the shakiest of foundations, the outcome of a protracted war in which no one could predict the outcome. But despite conditions in which the fledgling America could have collapsed back under British rule, the war was won and the former colonists had a home to call their own, something unheard of in those monarchial times.
And for Adams and Jefferson, their place in history among the founding fathers, assured if only for the creation of the declaration, destiny still placed each man at the forefront of their country’s leadership into the new century. When George Washington became president in 1789 after the acceptance of a constitutional government, Adams became our first vice president and Jefferson the initial secretary of state. Adams succeeded Washington as the chief executive and Jefferson was elected the third president in 1800.
That both men died within hours of each other on the nation’s 50th anniversary, July 4, 1826, is a remarkable and thrilling fact that lends a layer of greatness to what it took to craft a new country, and to the courage and intellect of not only two men mentioned here, but of many others who shared in their vision.
Looking to buy a portable grill to do some barbecue for the Fourth, my wife conducted an informal survey with Facebook friends on charcoal-vs.-gas. We appreciate the response and the insights on grilling with either cooking material, and the results ran about neck-and-neck on them. Gas is neater, but there is a certain flavor from use of charcoal that yields memories of those summer afternoons back in the day when the bag of Kingsford and its briquettes let you know you were eating something pleasantly different.
At this point, it appears charcoal may win out as we have purchased a chimney, a canister with holes allowing for plenty of air, for the grill we haven’t purchased as of this writing. The chimney allows charcoal to turn the desired greyish-white color, letting you know that it’s hot enough to use on the grill. We hear it bypasses the need for lighting fluid, thus removing the taste of the fluid that sometimes seeps into the food. We’ll find out and let you know.
The passing of Dene Wagner Pellegrinon on June 26 in Landrum, S.C., marks the loss of a dedicated community volunteer and a significant player in local media history. After working with her first husband, Paul Wagner, in various venues involving radio, she and Paul purchased Gallipolis station WJEH in 1967 and established Wagner Broadcasting Co.
For just over 30 years, her signature program on WJEH was the interview-and-discussion show “Chatterbox.” The theme for “Chatterbox” was “The Typewriter” by Leroy Anderson, the instrumental composer whose most famous works include “Sleigh Ride” and “The Clock” (best known as the theme for “Jeopardy!”). She had moved to Tryon, N.C., in 2009 to be closer to her daughter Lynn and son-in-law, Eric “E.T.” Turner, but she is certainly not forgotten locally by anyone who had the privilege of knowing her — and that’s a lot of people.
And whatever you do celebrating the Fourth, be it traveling, attending any of the community observations in Gallia, Meigs and Mason counties, or just staying home — be safe and have a happy Independence Day.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.