I was working on a post involving our Nation Anthem … when I viewed the presentation of “The Declaration of Independence” as part of this year’s Super Bowl pre-game (I joined in at 5:45).
I had honestly forgotten that this has become an annual presentation of the reading of the Declaration of Independence, regardless of the network broadcasting the game.
It got me to thinking … as I would hope each time we read or hear those words, we get to thinking …
But, what I thought about was this: How often, as Americans, do we actually see, hear, or read the Declaration of Independence? My thoughts on the National Anthem were leaning toward the same question: As Americans … if not for sporting events … how often do we hear the National Anthem? While we’ll cover that next time, I am trying to remember when was the last time I read or heard the Declaration of Independence? Last Super Bowl? Honestly? Probably.
I can remember, growing up, in school, we always had to memorize the Declaration (or at least parts of it), the Preamble to the Constitution … and, the Gettysburg address, for example.
What about now?
As a teacher, I should know the answer, but I’m not thinking as locally here as nationally. How often, as we enjoy the benefits of the ideals these great documents represent, are we exposed to the words of those documents?
Many of our Government buildings still have framed displays of these great documents, but how often do I just stop, take a moment, and read them?
In my research, trying to find a definitive answer to the question of “How often is the Declaration of Independence read?” I came across this story from July 02, 2010, written by Jane Hampton Cook, and featured on FoxNews.com. The story was entitled “Why Everyone Should Read the Declaration of Independence.” I am quoting especially the part of the story which details how “by chance” the “Original” Declaration of Independence was spared from destruction in a fire at the US Patent Office … Enjoy the story, and the special video presentation:
For 35 years the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. displayed the official signed copy of the Declaration of Independence for all to see …
As a special present to the nation, the declaration returned to its birthplace, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, for ongoing celebrations of its 100th birthday in 1876. It then moved to the State Department Library in early 1877. Within months, the Patent Office burned. Had the declaration been returned to its usual spot, the nation’s first treasure would have been lost forever — a close call and warning to preserve it as tightly as a mother protects an infant.
By modern standards, they were really reckless with the declaration in its early days. At first it was frequently unrolled and then rolled up again, weakening the paper. At the Patent Office, a nearby window exposed its already rapidly deteriorating ink to sunlight. Today the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and all four pages of the U.S. Constitution are carefully displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. They reside in $4 million aluminum and titanium fireproof containers. The fragile parchments do not touch the glass, and their airtight cases are filled with a non-leaky preserving gas. The treasures enjoy a steady climate controlled temperature of 67 degrees.
The principles behind independence haven’t changed … Our founder’s belief that rights came from a Creator — hasn’t changed. The principle of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness still screams the “American dream” as much as it did in 1776 … Failure to read and appreciate the Declaration of Independence today is a failure to understand who we are as Americans.
The best way to preserve independence — not simply the document but what it means — is to pass its principles to the next generation. We must read the declaration for ourselves and to our children.
And because this national treasure wasn’t burned in a fire in 1877, it’s available for all to see in person by visiting the National Archives in our nation’s capital.