Friday, July 4, 2014

The Mysterious Intersection of July Fourth and Vietnam

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.  This most American of holidays is marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.  Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from England.

John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and turned down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed by 56 men of 13 colonies nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million.  The nation's estimated population on this July Fourth is 318.4 million.

In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third President in a row who died on this memorable day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.

Two American presidents were born on that day, Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge.  George Steinbrenner, Geraldo Rivera and Malia Obama are just a few of the many public figures who celebrate their birthdays on July 4th.  It was on this day in 1939 that Lou Gerhig appeared at Yankee Stadium and gave his retirement speech, calling himself “the luckiest man on earth.”  And on this day in 2004, the cornerstone was laid for the Freedom Tower in New York City, a building that would rise from the ashes of the World Trade Center.

July Fourth is the "biggest hot dog holiday of the year," according to TIME magazine, with Americans consuming about 155 million of them on Independence Day along.  Conversely, on July 4, 1776, John Adams and wife, Abigail sat down for a celebratory turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas and boiled new potatoes in jackets.  They followed the meal with Indian pudding or Apple Pandowdy. 

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and England celebrate July 4th. National parks in Denmark are said to hold the largest 4 July celebrations outside of the US.  July 4 marks a day of liberation in both the Phillipines and Rwanda.

Ironically, Vietnam has a July 4th connection:  On September 2, 1945, Ho Chí Minh read a proclamation to thousands of Vietnamese,announcing the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the country's independence from France.  "All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."  This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776.