How true this is!
It seems it always happens. Whenever we get too high-hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides we’re a push-over all ready to be blackjacked. And it isn’t long before we’re looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flag’s still waving over us. James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy
Pretty standard Fourth of July fare…beef brisket, corn on the cob, potato salad, and watermelon:
Dessert was special…no funfetti this year! Vanilla ice cream topped with cinnamon-sugar baked peaches (that Turkey and I picked this morning), and drizzled with a homemade blackberry sauce (made from berries also picked this morning).
If you haven’t watched the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy recently, there’s a good chance you don’t even know who George Cohan was. Among other things, he was an actor, composer, singer and producer. He is comparable to Irving Berlin, in that he wrote many familiar, catchy, and often patriotic songs; however, for some reason, he doesn’t seem to be as well-known.
In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to WWI morale. In particular, he’s remembered for writing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.” Given that both of these songs are still sung today, I’d say that he was quite deserving of the medal!
The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy is actually a biographical musical about George Cohan’s life. It won several Academy Awards, and was nominated for many more. It has also been recognized by the American Film Institute as both one of the top 100 movies of all time and one of the top 100 musicals, as well as containing one the of the top 100 quotes, (“My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.”), and songs (“The Yankee Doodle Boy”).
Whenever you hear the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” (more commonly known simply as “Yankee Doodle Dandy”), “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” or “Over There,” (as well as other familiar, although less patriotic songs, like “Give My Regards to Broadway”), think of their writer, George Cohan, and the contributions he made to American morale during the Great War, without ever going into battle himself. He’s a perfect example of embracing one’s vocation, and serving where best able to serve, a legacy which his children also embraced.
“Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware –
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.”
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays every year, and I think it’s because of where I grew up–Wheaton, Illinois. I truly believe that town has the finest Fourth of July celebration outside of the east coast. As a child, there was always something to look forward to on the Fourth, in addition to the standard BBQs/picnics/family events.
First, is the Wheaton Municipal Band’s patriotic concert. This occurs on the Thursday before the Fourth, (my favorite years were when that Thursday happened to fall on the third of July, kind of an Independence Day Eve celebration), and features all kinds of patriotic and American music, including my personal favorite, “Stars and Stripes Forever.” They are a truly talented group of musicians, and the Wheaton concert always helped me feel better about not getting to attend the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.
Then there’s the Fourth of July parade. It was once billed as the biggest Fourth of July parade in the state. I don’t know if that’s still true, but I do know I have many fond memories of the parade from my childhood. Bands, floats, horses, dozens of flags…even the shopping carts that are so common in parades…it was all there. Dignitaries, too. It wasn’t uncommon for the governor to march in the Wheaton, (and the later-in-the-day Glen Ellyn), parade. One year, he even stopped in at the Hallmark store I worked at to pick up a thank-you card–how cool is that! (This was before the troubled state of the Governor’s office in Illinois.)
And, of course, it wouldn’t be the Fourth without fireworks. Wheaton also has an excellent fireworks display, held at the county fairgrounds. Once I was old enough to drive, we often would park in the Target parking lot near the fairgrounds, and watch from there. It wasn’t unusual for the spectacle to last for 45 minutes, and every time you thought that certainly the finale had come, there would be another grand display. It was pretty impressive for a town of 50,000!
You can see how I grew up loving the Fourth of July. And even though our celebrations are a little different, living in a different place, it’s still a huge deal to me, celebrating our great country’s birthday!
You didn’t think I’d say king on Independence Day, did you?
Over the past few years, I’ve developed our family’s traditional Fourth of July dinner. The main course is the Pioneer Woman’s beef brisket. It is, without a doubt, the best meat dish I have ever prepared. I think the real secret to the success of this dish is the liquid smoke…I look for any reason to use that stuff, and it is simply amazing as part of the marinade for a very slow roasted brisket.
We, of course, had all of the traditional side dishes. Corn on the cob, baked beans, and potato salad. I have, in the past, attempted to make my own baked beans…they were OK, but not really worth the effort in my opinion. And Bush’s has that secret sauce that the dog’s always trying to give away, so I don’t feel too bad using canned beans. I sometimes make the potato salad from scratch, but not this year…sometimes it’s nice to just relax and enjoy the holiday without making yourself crazy with preparing and cooking!
The beverages of choice for this holiday were root beer, and regular beer. OK, not regular, because it was a fancy Schlafly brew, but still, beer. The children think it’s very exciting any time they get to have soda with a meal, and what’s more American than root beer?
Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without a little patriotic Funfetti! It may just be a box mix, but there’s something charming about the sprinkle-laden cupcakes. Plus, it’s another tradition…so it’s a necessity, no matter how corny it is!
From the LCMS “LetUsPray” Resource:
“O merciful Father in heaven, on this anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, keep this nation under Your care. Protect our land from danger and instability. Abide with our military who courageously keep our country safe. Guide President Obama, our federal and state legislators, our governors, our county and city government officials, and all who serve them. Grant all public servants the understanding that You work through them to keep our country stable and safe.
Eternal God, the country You have given to us is indeed a good land, a land in which freedom reigns. Give us faith, however, to look beyond this land and into the eternal home which You give to us for Jesus’ sake.
God of peace, You know that we live in a world plagued with war and uprising. By Your Word and Sacraments, strengthen our faith so that we can endure this world while remaining confident of Your eventual return, when war will cease and peace will sustain the new creation. Amen.”
I have loved this quote from John Adams regarding Independence Day celebrations ever since I read it last year:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Even though he said it over 200 years ago, it describes perfectly our Fourth of July celebrations today!
- Pomp and Parade? Check! Between speeches and patriotic music, I think we’ve got pomp covered. And I do love a good Independence Day parade!
- Shows, Games and Sports? Check! The shows might be a little different from what John Adams had envisioned, but who doesn’t love an opportunity to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy? Or The Patriot? Or 1776? Or Independence Day? And the Fourth of July is a great time for families, friends, and neighbors to get together and play all sorts of games, or to watch a sporting event on TV.
- Guns? Check! Between cannon blasts, and fireworks, (which are really just colorful guns), this is probably the most anticipated event of any given Independence Day.
- Bells? Check! If not church bells ringing, then bells in concerts all across the country. Big or small, bells are ringing all around America for the Fourth of July.
- Bonfires and Illuminations? Check! There are those fireworks, again, and lights in general, as everyone stays up late to celebrate America’s birthday. Even backyard bonfires are not uncommon, as families huddle around them, and talk late into the night.
- From one end of the continent to the other? Check! I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love at least some aspect of the Fourth of July, whether it’s the fireworks or the time with family, the food or the parades. And it doesn’t matter if you live in a big city or small town, (or even on a farm in the middle of nowhere), east coast or west, north or south–Americans all over this country are celebrating today–celebrating our strength and our freedoms, celebrating all of the things that make this country great!
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank Mr. Wedderburn for everything he has said against me. My gratitude is sincere. You’ve answered a question which has troubled me since boyhood. But you have finally put my mind at ease. The question is fundamental and when my fellow colonists arrive at the same answer as I, a great empire may fall. Mr. Wedderburn says I’m a traitor, but this is not true. The question he has answered for me is thus: ‘Am I a British subject? Or am I the citizen of a new nation? A country distinct and different from England?’ And today I declare my answer: ‘I am not British. I am an American!’ And man can only betray his own country. My country is no longer England. My country is America.” Benjamin Franklin to the British Parliament
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry to the Second Virginia Convention
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right out to be, Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
“I have not yet begun to fight!” Captain John Paul Jones
“Out of this rabble has risen a people who defy kings.” A soldier of King George III at the surrender at Yorktown
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” John Adams on Independence Day celebrations