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Leslie Clement

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Our Declaration 2008
July 11, 2008

July 4th 2008

It may be the last July 4th party we would have at my parents home overlooking Lake Union in Seattle Washington. The place has probably been sold, and the whole family will be moving to different places around the country or even the world.

I have been wanting to keep peoples mind on the reason for the 4th of July holiday foremost for the celebration. So, I decided that we would do a reading of The Declaration of Independence. I searched the web for the text and printed it out.

As I read it over - once again I was overwhelmed by the passion and commitment within those few short pages.

I worked out a division of ten approximately equal or at least logical parts to be read aloud by the guests at our party. My plan was to have the reading shortly before the fireworks show started on Lake Union.

We had Red, White & Blue punch, A Red, White and Blue cake. We had best patriotic music playing on the stereo. We had a large military US flag hanging from two separate balconies overlooking the lake, as well as our state flag of Washington hanging between.

Almost all of our guests were wearing red, white and blue. and as we settled into party mode I mentioned that we would have a reading of the Declaration of Independence before the fireworks show, and if they would like to be part of the reading they were all invited.

I did not choose whom would read until just moments before I handed out the copies of the Declaration.

The surprises started then - everyone read with a voice I had not expected to hear. Some who had been sitting - stood up to do their section of the reading, others slowed down their speed and enunciated every word, another - a very mild mannered widow - who seemed to me a bit frail, read her section with a voice I could have imagined was from Ethyl Merman. Everyone read their parts as if it belonged to them. Everyone read with obvious respect and a heightened force than their normal speaking voice - no one made any side comments or jokes and everyone tried to make sure they were reading from the intent of the document.

Since I was the one who handed out the copies - I kept the last paragraph for myself - but as I started reading I choked up and became misty and though it is only a few short sentences, I was shaking a bit and almost crying by the time I made it to the part where I read ... we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Everyone was still for a moment - then, about half of the people in the room said simultaneously - God Bless America!

The room was full of many generations, many backgrounds, many political persuasions, and very different income levels - yet we all felt the importance of the July 4th 1776 Declaration - the risk those 56 men had put on the line and we all felt the promise of the great experiment of democracy.

Will it make any difference that I tried to focus for a few moments only a few peoples hearts and minds on the reason we have a holiday and watch millions of dollars worth of fireworks sent up for our entertainment?

I can only hope that the ripple effect of this little pebble in the pond of our party will keep us all aware of what it takes to keep honest patriotism alive and well.

By Leslie Clement
Copyright 2008

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