The rain held off until the bicycle parade completed, but the flag got a bit of a bath on its way up the flagpole. Nonetheless, the program went on, but in an abbreviated fashion. The Mayor kept his welcoming remarks succinct in deference to meteorological reality.
The keynote speaker, the Honorable Ted Lamb, Portsmouth School Board Member, gave his prepared speech but with all deliberate haste. For the sake of those who did not attend and those who did but might have focused more on staying dry than on the message, PCW requested a copy of the Board Member Lamb’s address.
“Distinguished guests, citizens of Portsmouth, and those that make this day possible, the heroes who serve in our armed forces today and in the past. Thank you for your sacrifice.
“Today, the United States of America, the greatest Republic to have ever existed in the history of mankind, turns 240 years young. The story of our independence starts on July 1 when the Second Continental Congress voted on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution that said, ‘These states are and of a right ought to be free and independent states. But we know that for this to be a reality it only happened eight long years later and by the hand of Providence and His grace shown to the Continental Army as they stood against the world’s superpower at the time. Nothing guaranteed that we would win . . . .
“Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
“Yes, Thomas Jefferson declared and made known that each and every person is born with unalienable rights given to us by our creator. Freedom and liberty derive from this understanding of these rights. We are born with this freedom; however, it has to be nurtured in each and every generation for us to keep our liberty. Lest we forget the source of our rights, consider the words of Patrick Henry: ‘Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!’
“Those words, spoken in 1775 by Henry in St. John’s Church in Richmond, ring as true for us today as they did on the brink of the American Revolution. The signers of the Declaration of Independence understood this better than anyone else. Their closing words also ring true today: ‘And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’
“John Adams once said, ‘I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It 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.’
“Let us reaffirm and pledge that we will recommit on this 4th of July our commitment to the ideals and principles that made us Americans in our Declaration of Independence. God bless the United States.”
(See images of the original Declaration of Independence at the National Archives web site. To hear a complete reading of the Declaration by National Public Radio correspondents and support staff, click here.)