Fourth of July

“Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?” my 6-year-old niece asked me.

We were by the swimming pool. It was the perfect afternoon. The sky was Technicolor blue. The smell of Kingsford smoke was in the air. In the distance some hapless teen with a mullet haircut was attempting to shoot a bottle rocket from a well-known orifice of his body.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer my niece’s question. At least not in a way she would understand.

After all, this particular American holiday is a grandiose thing. How do you describe to a 6-year-old the significance of Old Glory, Purple Mountains Majesty and the inexpressible splendor of Dale Earnhardt Sr.?

“Well, sweetie,” I said. “That’s a good question…”

But then I sort of drew a blank. Why DO we celebrate the Fourth?

I suddenly realized I know less about this American holiday than I thought I did. In fact, one could say that I don’t know Shinola about the Fourth of July.

And apparently I’m not alone. Because I conducted an informal study wherein I asked students in Mrs. Anderson’s Sunday school class why we celebrate this uniquely American holiday.

Here are some answers I received:

John, 11, said, “It was the French or something.”

Eilene, 9, “That’s when we won the war against Mexico. No wait. I mean China.”

Benji, 9, “Because that’s when we do the fireworks.”

Ashley, 12, “We celebrate this holiday because in 1812, we signed a Treaty of Paris, and it just became a thing.”

And my favorite answer of all comes from Landon, age 8, who answered with the utmost sincerity when he said: “It’s when Diana Ross made our flag.”

So all this got me thinking. Exactly how much do my fellow adults know about the Fourth of July? I posed the same question to grown-ups.

Pamela, 32, “Well, the Fourth of July is our nation’s literal birthday, when all those guys signed the Consitution.”

Anders, 63, said, “It’s America’s birthday. Everyone knows that. The Pilgrims and all that.”

Emily, 21, “It’s the anniversary of our nation, when the big war finally ended in Germany.”

Robert, 39, “I can’t remember which battle we won. The Revolution, maybe? All I know is that our nation is going to be 230 years old.”

So we had some work to do.

Because the Fourth of July is not the date of a famous battle. Neither does it mark the beginning of the Revolutionary War, nor the ending. The Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775 and ended September 3, 1783.

Neither is the Fourth of July the date of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, which was written between June 11 and June 28, 1776. The Declaration wasn’t signed on July 4, either. It was signed on August 2.

Similarly, the Fourth has nothing to do with the Constitution, which was penned September 17, 1787. And no, July Fourth is not George Washington’s birthday. It is, however, the birthday of President Calvin Coolidge. Also, Geraldo Rivera.

The reason we celebrate this date is straightforward and simple.

On July 4, 1776, the 56 members of the Second Continental Congress officially adopted a document that confessed high treason against Great Britain.

It was a document the 13 colonies had been pleading for. A document that would change global history.

It was a humble manuscript, engrossed on animal skin, which took Thomas Jefferson 17 arduous days to draft. A declaration.

A document whose second paragraph reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

But the reason I personally celebrate this holiday is deeper than a sheet of parchment. I don’t celebrate because we are the most powerful nation, or the most economically prosperous, or the country with the highest funded military.

I celebrate the Fourth of July for one simple reason:

Because I love you. Plain and simple.

You see, being an American means that we live in a place where you and I are equals. Not metaphorically, not philosophically, but literally. It says so on our founding document.

You matter as much as I do. This is true not only because it was written in the most beautiful English prose, by a deft hand. It’s true because it’s true.

So I celebrate because, no matter who you are, no matter what you believe, no matter where you come from, no matter which language you speak, or who you marry, or what kind of wild stuff you post on social media, you’re my brother. You’re my sister. And I love you dearly.

And even though we don’t always get along, even though we aggravate each other, you and I are on the same side. Our ancestors died proving it. And Thomas Jefferson put it in writing.

So happy 246th birthday, America. And may God bless Diana Ross.


  1. Holly - July 4, 2022 8:06 am

    I love this. Happy 4th!

  2. Debbie - July 4, 2022 8:38 am

    Thank you very much. I have never thought of the 4th as a confession of high treason against Great Britain. It should be obvious, but I missed it.

    • Guy Cortesi - July 4, 2022 11:52 am

      Yes, in fact:

      • Five of the 56 Declaration signers were captured by the British and tortured as traitors.

      • Nine of the 56 Declaration signers fought and died in the American Revolution.

      • Four other of the 56 Declaration signers lost their sons in the Continental Army or had sons who were captured.

      • At least a dozen of the 56 Declaration signers had their homes looted and destroyed.

      They certainly were patriots who gave so much.

  3. Sandi. - July 4, 2022 9:36 am

    Sean, best wishes for a very Happy 4th of July to you and Jamie. There is no other country I’d prefer to live in than America!

  4. Jessica - July 4, 2022 9:58 am

    Thank you, Sean, for a beautifully concise history lesson.

  5. Tim Smith - July 4, 2022 10:21 am

    Coolidge, Rivera and Carter Smith, my grandson!

  6. imcdbw - July 4, 2022 10:36 am


  7. Ronald Blankenship - July 4, 2022 10:37 am

    Happy fourth, Sean. Love you too

  8. KayHickman - July 4, 2022 11:07 am

    One of my favorites!!!

  9. Debbie Taylor - July 4, 2022 11:43 am

    Thanks for your simply yet oh so beautiful message. Happy Fourth of July, Sean!

  10. Marcia - July 4, 2022 11:48 am

    Sean, great explanation. Thank you for believing that and saying that. However, unfortunately, in practice, the idea that we are all equal is aspirational. More and more, it is demonstrated that some people do not see it that way or want it to be true.

  11. Diana Kinser - July 4, 2022 11:49 am

    “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
    ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  12. Sheri K - July 4, 2022 12:25 pm

    Happy 4th to you! And thank you for the mini history lesson. Your “high treason” statement was an eye opener – I never thought of our Declaration of Independence in that light but that’s totally accurate. Have a wonderful and safe celebration! And God bless America!!!

  13. Bill Richardson - July 4, 2022 12:32 pm

    Sean, I served this country for four years and in those four years I saw many other countries, and none even came close to being what this country is. We have so much to be thankful for. We have the right to disagree with our government and no one is going to come and put us in jail. As an American we should drop to our knees each day and thank God that we live in America. I love this country and so do most Americans. After 9-11 most Americans were ready to take arms and go after the bad guys. We may not all agree, but most of us stand ready to defend this country, not may countries can say that. I still get all teared up when I hear the music and our flag being raised. I inherited a great country when I was born, but I am not so sure that I am leaving future generations the same great country I got when I was born.

    • Larry Wall - July 5, 2022 2:54 pm

      Bill Richardson – So well stated as to our nation and its value. I have, like you, benefited so much from being born an American and have very likely failed to do what I could to leave it in as good condition as I found it. At age 76 I have failed the previous generations who struggled to make the United States the greatest country on the planet Earth by not teaching the younger ones what freedom really means and what its cost has been.

  14. Jackye Thompson - July 4, 2022 12:48 pm

    God Bless America. Safe day to all.

  15. Gigi - July 4, 2022 12:49 pm

    Great mini history lesson Sean, told only as you can. What a great way to start off the day ! Happy Independence Day to you and Jamie !!

  16. Maggie Priestaf - July 4, 2022 1:06 pm

    Amen and thank you, Sean…again.

  17. Richard Baker - July 4, 2022 1:47 pm

    Sean, beautiful explanation, simple, true, profound, and challenging to achieve! It is also what that dear man Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream about. And what Jesus ordained when He said, “ Father, that they may be one as we are one. Yep, you nailed it, Sean. May we all see the point as clearly and celebrate for the right reason , and commit ourselves to see this vision become the reality we live in.

  18. Susan Marler - July 4, 2022 1:51 pm

    Thank you. We needed that today especially today on this Fourth of July. We ARE all created equal and the reminder of the the details why is appreciated. And by the way, we love you back. Happy Fourth🎉

  19. K - July 4, 2022 1:52 pm


  20. Lynne Pickens - July 4, 2022 2:15 pm

    Thank you. I love this.

  21. kevan kerns - July 4, 2022 2:29 pm

    And our flag is Supreme.

  22. sjhl7 - July 4, 2022 2:56 pm

    Love, love, love this! Thank you, Sean, and happy 4th of July!

  23. David Britnell - July 4, 2022 3:10 pm

    God bless America! Land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night, with a light from above. Love you guys!

  24. Pete Tucker - July 4, 2022 3:21 pm


  25. Ken Vining - July 4, 2022 3:22 pm

    Independence Day – The holiday celebrated in the United States of America every year on the fourth day of July is not called July 4th. Every nation on this earth that follows the Gregorian calendar has a day in July named the fourth. Just like every nation has a February 14th, December 25th, a November 11th or a January 1st.

    In this country we celebrate Independence Day on the fourth of July because as a unified people we came together for the first time in history to successfully reject a tyrannical government in order to ensure our natural rights. Please respect the sacrifice made in those early years use the proper name – Independence Day. It’s more important than simple semantics. Ken Vining MAJ USA Retired

  26. Clay Rankin - July 4, 2022 3:24 pm

    Wow, Sean!! What succinct and profoundly true history lesson!

  27. Magi Wester - July 4, 2022 3:27 pm

    The aspirations of the men who signed onto this Declaration and the man who penned it are far from being reached, for “equality” isn’t acknowledged, much less practiced, for all people. Until such a time we, as a nation standing together with all Americans, supported by our laws and policies, must recognize these are merely words on a piece of paper, not realizations. Gratitude for what we do have is a significant declaration in 2022; our celebrations are premature.

  28. Mari Bonomi - July 4, 2022 3:41 pm

    Jefferson and the other Founders had a very narrow definition of who the “all men” were who were created “equal.” Over the next 200-plus years, that definition gradually broadened.

    To the despair of many of us, however, that definition has begun to again diminish. In the past two weeks, half of the entire population was removed from it, having been reduced to incubators with no freedom to determine what happens in and to our bodies.

    I am wearing black today in mourning for the United States that was and might have been, the one whose expanding e.brace of equality was truly in the spirit of our Founders.

    • Bill in Tennessee - July 4, 2022 8:33 pm

      Oh de,you’re joking are you? Sigh, all one has to do is read the opinion of the Supreme Court and you will discover that abortions are not outlawed, but the matter has been returned to the states…where the matter should have been all along.

      The original 13 states created the federal government, not the other way around. The Republic always was to allow the states their own sovereignty.

      Women still have access to abortions, and I suspect what people are really angry about is the INCONVENIENCE of having to travel to get an abortion. Such is the thinking in our high tech speedy culture where every problem can be solved with a phone call or going to a local agency that will fix it.

      I wonder if fetuses think “my body, my choice” at any time in their gestation? I guess we’ll never know, huh?

  29. Mike and Phyllis Ratliff - July 4, 2022 3:49 pm

    And all God’s children said AMEN!

  30. Robert E McGraw - July 4, 2022 4:03 pm

    Shouldn’t the last line read “Thank you Betsy Ross”?

  31. Susie Flick - July 4, 2022 4:08 pm

    Here’s hoping everyone enjoys their 4th of July celebrating with friends & family. We are still working on the equality issue for many and that is why we live in America because we have the opportunity to do so. God bless America.

  32. Irma - July 4, 2022 4:35 pm

    Sean , you did a great job explaining the this Happy 4th of July and may God Bless.

  33. S - July 4, 2022 5:16 pm

    I appreciate that you let us know how much we don’t know and what we need to do to know more about our country and its founding. We need to teach our children and ourselves a bit better than we do, it seems.

  34. Daniel Boseman - July 4, 2022 5:58 pm

    Hey Sean and fellow readers. I read a few of your posts today, great stuff. I was shared your Mendon, Missouri post (also great), which eventually led me to this post.

    “being an American means that we live in a place where you and I are equals. Not metaphorically, not philosophically, but literally. It says so on our founding document.”

    I’m sorry Sean, but this simply isn’t true. Yes, it says that on the document, and we have been repeating that every day since 1776, but still today there is a world of difference between many Americans’ lives.

    38 million Americans are food insecure: Hunger in America | Feeding America

    37 million Americans live in poverty: National Poverty in America Awareness Month: January 2022

    580k Americans are homeless: State of Homelessness: 2021 Edition – National Alliance to End Homelessness

    We have the highest incarceration rate in the world (2 million in prison, 21% of the world’s prisoners):

    The average white household makes 30k more per year than the average black household: Income and Wealth in the United States: An Overview of Recent Data

    Also, as we all know, black people were literally, by law, 2nd class citizens in America until ~1964, which is close to 200 years of America’s history. Hard to call that equal.

    Let me ask you and others reading, do you fall into any of these groups? If not, how is your experience equal to these Americans? It’s not.

    Sean, this isn’t me saying I don’t love America. I do, America has given me so much. I live a very happy and prosperous life that I likely would not have in many other parts of the world. But I think it’s dangerous to say “we live in a place where you and I are equals. Not metaphorically, not philosophically, but literally”, because it simply isn’t true.

    • Susie - July 4, 2022 11:56 pm

      Amen, Daniel Boseman!!

    • Richard Baker - July 5, 2022 11:20 am

      Dear Daniel, it is no coincidence to my mind that Harryette’s post followed yours. The world Jesus entered had all the problems you so rightly enumerated. He began the work of showing us how to DO something about them and He gave us a new commandment on how it could/would be done. To LOVE the folks you listed , and to see them as our brothers and sisters…….not metaphorically, or philosophically etc…… no, we are not yet there, you are so very right to point it out, brother!

      • Susan Cassedy - July 5, 2022 1:27 pm

        Exactly what crossed my mind as I read this essay. One day, maybe it will be true.

  35. Harryette Miller Burnette - July 4, 2022 6:11 pm

    Thank you for your informative reminder of the reason we celebrate this day; for those of us, Americans of all different colors of skin, we all have the same blue & red blood flowing through our veins & God didn’t say anything about any certain ones we should or should not cater too; His message in the Bible, John. 13. [34] A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

    • Richard Baker - July 5, 2022 11:10 am

      Dear Harryette, this is the scripture I have been reciting to myself as well. A NEW commandment. One not hitherto understood, or appreciated, or followed…….. but in taking this commandment seriously, it is THE WAY thru all our troubles to the promised land. To Martin’s dream. To true shalom. To where the Father and Jesus are. Sean gets it, Oh Lord open all our eyes to see it so clearly

  36. Linda Moon - July 4, 2022 8:50 pm

    Supreme history lesson here, Sean. I love America and you, too. And back in the day I sure did love Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson. God Bless The USA!

  37. Mary L. - July 4, 2022 9:38 pm

    The Brittanica online says..”To answer this question, a lot of people point to John Adams’s letter to his wife, Abigail, informing her that the Continental Congress had declared independence: “[This day] ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

  38. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 4, 2022 9:55 pm


  39. Sal - July 5, 2022 2:21 am

    Remember that Canada day 🇨🇦🍁
    is just as important but happy fourth to you

  40. christine Wackrow - July 5, 2022 2:37 am

    loved your story

  41. Bonnie Danard - July 5, 2022 4:08 am

    Thank you! Someone needed to say it. You are my new favorite writer. Don’t stop! Happy birthday to all.

  42. Patricia - July 5, 2022 5:49 am

    God Bless America! We may have our problems but I am thankful God allowed me to be born in this great nation! I’ve worked hard for what I have now and thankful for it! Compared to some, I don’t have much but glad I worked for it, and it wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter. Sean, thanks for the history lesson….Happy Independence Day!

  43. pattymack43 - July 5, 2022 5:16 pm

    Didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday, however, THANK YOU for this outstanding tribute to our fine nation, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! We are not perfect, but there is no other nation on this planet to which I would trade my citizenship. NONE!!! I am proud to be an AMERICAN!!!! Hope that your 4th of July was as blessed as mine. Happy Day After Independence Day!!


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