The Signers–56 Brave Men

It was on July 4, 1776, that the church bells finally started to ring over Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence had been adopted. There had been much secrecy surrounding the meetings of the brave souls who risked everything, including the charge of treason, to be in that room that day.

The 56 men were lawyers, pastors, merchants, physicians, and farmers. There was a printer, a musician, an inventor, and more. They were men going about their lives, fulfilling their dreams, and playing with their children. Then, as now, lawyers made up the largest group; there were 24. Pennsylvania had the most signers with nine. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest; he was 70. John Rutherford was the youngest; he was 26. Eight were born in Europe.

John Hancock’s signature is the largest and most prominent. He was the first to sign and the signature rests in its own white space. The name became synonymous with “signature.” “Give me your John Hancock,” or “Put your John Hancock here,” means your signature. His signature was as flamboyant as was his reported life style.

Have you ever wondered what the derivation of “gerrymandering” is? I have, but I never have taken the time to find out. When I read the short biographies of the signers this week, I learned so many interesting things. Among the signers was Eldridge Gerry, a man from Massachusetts. Eldridge was a graduate of Harvard College, a merchant, governor. He opposed the federal constitution, and taught us about redistricting. He was soundly criticized for redistricting to advantage his political party for re-election. “Gerrymandering” has been with us for awhile.

All these men were so very interesting; but they were much more. They were extraordinary patriots. They pledged everything to the cause of freedom, and they risked everything. And most of them gave everything. They saw their land and homes destroyed, and the men with fleets of ships and merchants with successful businesses saw it all destroyed. Their families as well were targets.

The bells rang in Philadelphia and our freedom was born. We got up this morning in this free land. Conversations and the news quickly turned to the celebrations of the day. Fireworks displays, band concerts, parties, patriotic parades, flags waving, and families and friends gathering. Hot dogs at the baseball game and barbecues at the park, or maybe a swim party. This is our fourth of July.

When I took my grateful walk this morning, I took a little extra time to be grateful for my freedom. It was foggy at 6 o’clock, and I could see very little just a short distance from me or just the shadows of the buildings below me by the stream at the bottom of the slopes. In a short hour or so, all would be visible. When the fog cleared, it would all be there as it was yesterday when the sun broke through. All this to be grateful for in a free land.

When the signers woke up on the morning of July 4, 1776, they still had work to do. It would be well into the afternoon before the bells could ring over Philadelphia.

We still have work to do; freedom is not free nor is it sustained with fireworks and holiday parties, picnics, and parades.

 

 

 

 

America First, Again and Food Stamps

        There is so much talk about America First, Again. For some, it has very positive connotations; for others, it seems to be a phrase for which they need to apologize. Their arguments and protestations seem to be bi-polar. On the one hand, for them, if America is First, she is arrogant and thinks that she is better than other nations. On the other hand, they want America to be the one to foot the bill to cure the ills of the world. They want America to feed the world, clothe the world, do the fighting for justice, kill all the mosquitoes that cause malaria, pay for the United Nations, and just generally take the lead in all programs to help others. We are the country, they say, that can “afford” to do all these things; we are the country of great wealth and resources.  

       By what existence, then, did we get to be this wonderfully resource-laden nation? It certainly was not as a second-class nation.

       We were established on values and principles of hard work, effort, freedom, independence, personal responsibility, energy, a pioneering spirit, and expectation. For most of our history we have been a nation of entrepreneurs, inventors, seekers of better ways to do things and better ways to live. We taught our children the value of self and society, of integrity and honesty. We helped our neighbor rather than have them “go on relief.” How many people now are on food stamps who really don’t need them?

        We helped our young people find ways to earn money for the things that they wanted. My grandfather was a master at that for the many grandchildren of his large family. Just today there is news tht young people aren’t applying for summer jobs. What will happen when the needs of the fall occur? The lazy, hazy, sunny days of the summer will be over, and the fall days of reality set in. School starts; the insurance on the car is due; school supplies are needed; new shoes are needed for the fall and winter to replace the summer sandals. Where will they turn?

       It is very frightening to me to see very young people in the large protests now happening. It is very frightening to me to see the thousands and thousands who cheer loudly when Bernie Sanders insists that all should have a free college education. It is frightening to me to hear crowds in America cheer when an American flag is burned.

It is frightening that many young people are learning the wily, flirtatious ways of “free stuff” and the engulfing philosophy of government entitlement and support.

             One thing is for certain. Without an America that is First, we all are less well-off. We will have less freedom, fewer opportunities, smaller visions for our future, fewer resources for programs at home and abroad, and trillions more in debt.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ninety-two Birthdays Revisited At Ninety-five

 

As I contemplate birthday number 95 in a few days, I wanted to share what I wrote on birthday 92. Not only am I three years older, but all the folks in my life are three years older. Wow. Enjoy. I have enjoyed the gift of every day in those three years.

 Ninety-two and counting is a great place to be.

There are so many beautiful memories, so many lessons learned, such opportunity to grow, and the accumulated treasure of family, friends, and faith. What a privilege to watch my America for 92 years. And at 92 what is a birthday like? Do you have pictures of a granny sitting in a rocking chair, rocking the hours away or worse yet, not even able to sit in a rocking chair? Or of a grey-haired figure just staring into space? If so, you really sell us short?

The sun is up early on these days, these long, beautiful days in June. I imagine my mother was up early in her last days of pregnancy hoping that this would be the day when she would be able to “see her feet again,” and when she would know whether  her daughter, Esther, would have a sister or a brother. And it was June 13, 1921, when Peter and Alvina Boltz welcomed their little girl into this world. It was a beautiful, not-quite-yet-summer day in Iowa.

And 92 years later? What was it like on June 13, 2013, in Bonsall, California? The sun was true to form–it was up early. It was a bright day when the flowers showed their true colors with not even a little distortion from a cloud. The birds were in fine fettle; their songs filled the air with the joyous harmony of the many in the bird choir. I took my usual walk to the end of the driveway. The gratefulness of the scene was overwhelming. My prayers were those of gratitude. The good fortune of where I have the privilege of living, the quick parade of memories of 92 years, and the day before me that would end in a School Board meeting in the evening were all things to be viewed with an attitude of gratitude.

The day was filled with calls, cards, flowers, e-mail greetings and ice-cream cake.

Getting an electronic greeting card from my multi-faceted diamond friend brought the technology advances over the years into sharp images. The  notes and cards were much as they have been through the years. The telephone calls much the same in content, but the instruments and technology were vastly different.

As I was finishing the e-card, I received a call from my oldest granddaughter, Kera. She is the one in the family who is always asking me what it was like when I was a little girl. After singing Happy Birthday and giving all the well wishes, the conversation turned to canning. She is getting ready to start graduate school and plans to have a garden at the home she is renting. Did I help my mother can, she queried? She wanted to can the excess fresh vegetables, and she wanted to know how to make watermelon pickles; sounded strange, she said  That may have been the last question in the world that I expected in 2013 on my 92nd birthday.

Flowers are always welcome visitors in my home. The bouquet from Britt and Diane in Oregon  is beautiful–filled with flowers that I love. Fewer things and more flowers are appreciated at 92, particularly when your home is filled with beautiful things they have given you over the years.

And the dinner of my choice for my birthday from Bob, Kim, Hailey and Cassidy who live next door, had to be delayed until Saturday since the School Board meeting was scheduled for the same day as my birthday.

The School Board meeting was  filled with issues, concerns and the joy that comes with the end of the school year. The normal concern that comes while dealing with important issues was mitigated by the gratitude that I felt that my community just elected me to serve a fifth four-year term. It doesn’t get better than that. The fact that I have been given the privilege of serving on three boards at 92, one corporate, one church, one education, deserves my utmost gratitude to my Creator. The love of family and friends continues to fill my days with joy.

My day ended with a call from my grandson, Colin, who is in Oregon for the summer working at a golf club in Bend, Oregon. It was late when I got home from the Board meeting; Colin’s sunny voice on the recording machine brought a smile to my face. It was too late to call him back. When I call him back tomorrow, the sunny voice will just extend my birthday greetings to another day.

Ninety-two and counting is a great place to be.