Happy Independence Day!


Fireworks over Washington, DC. Image via Reality Defined

Nation building results in icons – places of national memory.  In the United States, some of the places and icons most closely associated with its struggle for independence and freedom are the Philadelphia State House (now Independence Hall), the Liberty Bell, The Star Spangled Banner, and the Washington Monument.  Click through for more information on these international symbols of America.  I hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom

“Known today as Independence Hall, the stately, red brick building where our Founding Fathers made a stand against tyranny and later forged a framework for a national government speaks timelessly of freedom, democracy, and the human spirit. The enduring principles and philosophies expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have inspired numerous countries around the globe over the past two centuries. Recognizing the impact Independence Hall has had on governments worldwide, the United Nations made the building a World Heritage Site in 1979. This designation testifies that Independence Hall is an important part of the world’s cultural heritage and deserves to be protected for future generations.”

The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon

“Residents of Philadelphia in 1776 would not have been able to direct a visitor to the “Liberty Bell.” It was there–ringing out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House–but it had yet to be transformed into an international symbol of liberty. By the time the grandchildren of those early Philadelphians were grandparents themselves, however, they could easily have directed a visitor to the site of the famous Liberty Bell. It was still housed at the old State House, but by then the building had been renamed Independence Hall.”

“The Rocket’s Red Glare”: Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort Henry

“Key wrote his poem in 1814, in the last year of the War of 1812.  The United States had declared war on Great Britain in June 1812.  At first, the British were too busy fighting the French to devote much energy to the pesky Americans.  Once Napoleon abdicated in April 1814, the British set out to teach their former colonies a lesson.  In August, fifty ships sailed up Chesapeake Bay.  After occupying Washington on August 24, and burning the Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings, the British turned their attention northward.  Fort McHenry stood between the British navy and the city of Baltimore.  When the fort refused to be subdued, the ships sailed away, to the cheers of the defenders.  For many Americans, the War of 1812 was the “Second War of Independence.”

Few people remember the War of 1812 today, but the poem it inspired, almost immediately set to music as “The Star Spangled Banner,” has become the national anthem of the United States and a potent source of inspiration and community for Americans in times of crisis.”

The Washington Monument: A Tribute in Stone

“It rises tall and brilliant, its whiteness emphasized by the green grass and colorful flags that surround it. It stands at the heart of Washington, D.C., near the center of a cross formed by four of America’s most famous buildings: the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Jefferson Memorial.

But appearance and location are not the only reasons that the Washington Monument is one of the country’s most recognizable structures. Its prominence comes also because it commemorates George Washington, who remains one of the country’s most admired leaders more than two centuries after his death. The history of the monument reflects his contributions to the development of the United States and shows how Americans have debated the best way to honor important citizens.”

What places do you associate with the Fourth of July,with the United States, with freedom?

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