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 This July 4th,  my sister and I have been invited to help organizers of a large-scale program at the Statue of Liberty to mark the reopening of the crown for the first time in eight years.
LibertyAssorted dignitaries and invited guests are expected; some will make speeches, a marching band will play, and various veterans’ representatives will be recognized. The ceremonies will also include a group of immigrants to be sworn in. 
 I am unaccountably excited this year.  I’ve always loved parades and fireworks and hometown celebrations; I plan to catch as many as I can in and around my small community, whose fireworks over the lake are pretty terrific.  Macy’s just shifted their display over to the west side, which gives those of us from New Jersey a shot at some terrific views. 
fireworks     parade1  
July 4th by its very nature reminds me of our origins  –  of our Founding Fathers, of liberty and law, of the ideals we hold so dear and in all sincerity, of spaciousness and graciousnessEllis Island passengers on ship3a13598uw and American exceptionalism, by which I mean the remarkable confluence of history, resources, and governance and most of all, the faces of the new arrivals to this country (like my grandparents) when they first glimpsed the face of the woman with the torch. Like the faces of the new citizens will look when they are sworn in on Saturday.
The festivities this year feel hard-earned, well-deserved, and special. I honestly believe we’ve made some enormous steps in the right direction as a nation. Yes, we’re in the middle of some hard times and we’re not coming together on common ground as much as one might have hoped; there’s still far too much rancor and fear.
Then again, where but in America are you going to have an O’Reilly and an Oberman? Where else would people stay relatively patient and calm over eight excruciating months in order to find out who their representative would be, as did the good people of Minnesota? new citizensWhere else are you going to see so many people representing so much diversity waving flags and singing the national anthem and wearing red, white and blue with such pride?
 
There’s one other thing: The crown is opening for the first time since September 11, 2001. That has special resonance for me. After 9/11, our country’s leaders projected at various times, belligerence, defiance, or cluelessness. It seemed like such an awful way to remember those who died that day, including my husband, or to show the world what America could do, could be. But we survived and thrived and these days I feel strongly that we’re putting forth a truer vision of America than ever before, a vision of hope, opportunity, and resilience.
The philosophy behind the attacks had much to do with conformity, a single-minded belief system, a raft of fixed and preconceived notions about how the world is or should be. What Lady Liberty says, from her head to her toes, is just the opposite. She symbolizes tolerance, freedom, and the willingness to adapt, adopt, and change. That’s the America a groups of immigrants will join Saturday morning.  I can’t wait to see them become citizens under the watchful gaze of our most famous Statue.  

 

Liberty

 

On July 4th, 2009, a morning of festivities at the Statue of Liberty will be capped (so to speak) by the reopening of the statue’s crown. On hand will be various dignitaries, assorted participants, from veterans to at least one marching band, and a group of new immigrants ready to become citizens under the benevolent gaze of Lady Liberty. 

July 4th feels different this year.  I’ve always loved parades and hometown celebrations; I plan to catch as many as I can in and around my small community.  paradeMacy’s just shifted their display over to the west side, which gives those of us from New Jersey a shot at some terrific views. fireworks

 

July 4th by its very nature reminds me of our origins  –  of our Founding Fathers, of liberty and law, of the ideals we hold so dear and in all sincerity, of spaciousness and graciousness and American exceptionalism, by which I mean the remarkable confluence of history, resources, and governance and most of all, the faces of the new arrivals to this country (like my grandparents) when they first glimpsed the face of the woman with the torch. Like the faces of the new citizens will look when they are sworn in on Saturday. Ellis Island passengers on ship3a13598uw

The festivities this year feel hard-earned, well-deserved, and special. I honestly believe we’ve made some enormous steps in the right direction as a nation. Yes, we’re in the middle of some hard times and we’re not coming together on common ground as much as one might have hoped; there’s still far too much rancor and fear.

Then again, where but in America are you going to have an O’Reilly and an Olbermann? Where else would people stay relatively patient and calm over eight excruciating months in order to find out who their representative would be, as did the good people of Minnesota? Where else are you going to see so many people representing so much diversity waving flags and singing the national anthem and wearing red, white and blue with such pride? new citizens

There’s one other thing: The crown is opening for the first time since September 11, 2001. That has special resonance for me. After 9/11, our country’s leaders projected at various times, belligerence, defiance, or cluelessness. It seemed like such an awful way to remember those who died that day, including my husband, or to show the world what America could do, could be. But we survived and thrived and these days I feel strongly that we’re putting forth a truer vision of America than ever before, a vision of hope, opportunity, and resilience.

The philosophy behind the attacks had much to do with conformity, a single-minded belief system, a raft of fixed and preconceived notions about how the world is or should be. What Lady Liberty says, from her head to her toes, is just the opposite. She symbolizes tolerance, freedom, and the willingness to adapt, adopt, and change. That’s the America a groups of immigrants will join Saturday morning.  

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An Englishman I was talking with at a barbecue yesterday asked me to explain the difference between Memorial and Veterans Days. I gave my best, albeit incomplete answer – that Memorial Day remembers those who have died in combat and that Veterans Day is more about honoring the living veterans. I managed to recall that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day to mark the end of WWI but had forgotten (until I checked the Department of Veteran Affairs website) that Memorial Day began as Decoration Day after the Civil War, as a time to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate fallen soldiers. Each observance was established in response to a specific conflict but has expanded to encompass so many more conflicts. How very sad that is and how challenging it continues to be to properly remember and honor both the dead and living warriors while lamenting the wars they are called upon to fight.

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