By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 9:16 pm
In the spring of 1976 my parents took us on a trip we would never forget ... a trip through our nation’s history. As the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, I witnessed Washington, D.C., for the first time. Our country was celebrating its 200th birthday and preparations were on every corner. My family toured the White House, the Capitol and the Smithsonian. We traveled to Philadelphia and visited Independence Hall. We stood in the very place where our forefathers had signed the Declaration of Independence. I had my picture made in front of the Liberty Bell. We walked the streets where Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson once walked. I was 12 years old and some of the significance of such a trip was probably lost on my youth. Distracted by the desire to buy souvenirs and swim at the hotel pool, I’m sure I missed some of the things my parents were trying to impart. I wanted to have fun. Daddy wanted us to understand the magnitude of our country’s rich and amazing history. Believe it or not, the trip had a tremendous impact on me. I saw the history of our country up close. I realized there was tremendous sacrifice associated with the United States of America.
When our forefathers decided to declare their independence from England, I’m sure the folks back home thought the whole idea was a bit ridiculous. The following comments were probably made all through London and the countryside:
“Poor chaps! Think they’ve gone and built a country, eh? Yeah. It’ll never last.”
“I feel sorry for the poor blokes. Leaving England was the biggest mistake they’ll ever make. Only one thing a handful of dreamers could hope to accomplish in the new world starvation.”
“Why couldn’t they just do what they were told? If they’d stayed here, they’d be comfortable. They’ll never see the good life now. Their children and grandchildren will suffer because of this ridiculous quest for independence. They’ll always be a tiny struggling country. I doubt they’ll even survive.” But they did survive. They survived on the dream of something far bigger than themselves.
Thirty-two years have passed since my family’s bicentennial-year trip. I would love to be at Independence Hall this 4th of July. I would love to stand in front of the Liberty Bell or tour the nation’s capital with my family. This time the souvenirs would be the least of my concern. This time I would understand those concepts Daddy always wanted me to grasp. We live in an amazing country. A country with a rich history. Some doubted it would last. But the quest for freedom and independence was much more than just a half-hearted desire. It was a passion. Generations of people have built a good life here. Many have even given their lives in order to protect her freedoms. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was more than just a phrase. It was opportunity — opportunity for the poor and the rich; opportunity for those willing to work hard and dream big. As we celebrate another year in our country’s history, let’s take time to remember and be grateful. May we never forget those who have fought and died to protect the freedoms we hold dear. And may we forever remember the humble beginnings and incredible history of this great land. Happy 4th of July!
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 7.2.08