Broadcast: July 4, 2004
This is Bob Doughty. Today we present a VOA Special English report about Independence Day in the United States.
Special English listener Alex Arulraj of India wrote to ask how Americans celebrate the Fourth of July.
On the traditional Fourth of July, family and friends gather. They play sports and eat hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken cooked outdoors. At the end of the meal, some families cut up and eat pieces of a large sweet fruit called watermelon.
Many people attend programs of music, speeches and fireworks. Here in Washington, fireworks from the National Mall will light the sky after dark on Sunday – unless it rains.
People from all across the country gather on the grass to watch the colorful show above their heads. Special music at the Capitol will honor the American composer John Philip Sousa.
People in the Middle Western community of Michigan City, Indiana, also will celebrate the holiday with music. Three groups of former soldiers will raise the nation’s flag during the ceremonies.
July Fourth is the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence from Britain. During the summer of seventeen-seventy-six, the American colonists were deeply divided. Almost one in three was loyal to Britain. Yet most people were increasingly angry about what they considered unfair treatment by the British government. Britain taxed the colonists without giving them representation in Parliament. It also canceled any of the colonists’ laws that it did not like.
By June, some fighting had already taken place between colonial forces and British troops. The idea of independence was spreading.
Delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a meeting of the Continental Congress. Some delegates still hoped the colonies could reach agreement with Britain. Others thought the colonies could gain their rights only by becoming independent.
The Continental Congress decided that a document declaring separation from Britain should be prepared. Thomas Jefferson led a committee chosen to write it. On the Fourth of July, seventeen-seventy-six, the Continental Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence. It said people have the right to change their government if it denies them their rights.
We leave you now with traditional Fourth of July music by John Philip Sousa, “STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER”.