Renae Vander Schaaf

When I was growing up, this is that time of the year that the work of putting in the crops was finished, hours of cultivating fields were coming to an end, and even the first cutting of hay had been stacked with plenty of sweat and muscle into the hay mow. It had been a period of intense work and dedication to get everything done in a timely matter.

Now it was time to celebrate. The Fourth of July observance provided the much needed respite from the duties of daily farm work.

The Fourth was a time to get out to meet with others; and to watch the colorful parades of floats decorated with plenty of red, white and blue. Family picnics and fireworks were definitely a good part of our upbringing.

In earlier times, the church bells would ring just as the Independence Bell did on July 8, 1776 to proclaim liberty throughout the land prior to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Today this reading is again occurring in some communities.

Only one of our presidents has been born on the Fourth of July — Calvin Coolidge. You may remember him as the president Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith Show seemed to enjoy referencing.

Coolidge’s ancestors came to America way back in the 1630’s. They were definitely a part of this country from the beginning. He was born in 1872 in Vermont where he spent his summers working on the farm and in his father’s general store.

He had this strange notion “that a nation as well as a man should live in a way that it spent less than its income and was completely and clearly independent.”

It is perhaps appropriate that the president born on the Fourth of July also had the distinct honor to be president on the 150th anniversary of the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

My imagination pictures men wearing hats, dressed in starched white shirts complete with a tie under a suit coat. Likewise, women would also have been wearing hats; but were clothed in dresses and nylons. They came to celebrate the country’s birthday and to hear the president’s speech on that July 5th in Philadelphia, Penn. How they withstood the hot, humid temperatures which seem to come about the Fourth of July remains a mystery to me.

They weren’t disappointed as Coolidge did an excellent job of reminding them (and us today) of the importance of this document which declared the thirteen colonies to be free and independent states.

Coolidge told his audience that amid all the clash of conflicting interests, (he had some experience with police riots, scandals in high places and harsh criticism when he vetoed some bills) amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that those two charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken.

Right from its beginning, the Declaration states, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.”

It was because the writers of this document believed all men were created in the divine image of God, and therefore they are equal. No one was superior or had the right to rule over another; but citizens would choose their rulers through a system of self-government.

Coolidge stated that “Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.”

What a warning — especially for us in these days.

It’s a great speech and I encourage you to read and reread it.

The fireworks at dark back then — and now — are always grand. The colorful displays which light up the dark skies still stir our hearts with patriotic feelings. Sometimes these patriotic stirrings are difficult to understand because we are well aware of the corruption which seems to be everywhere; and we see the disdain of some for their fellow Americans’ lives and properties. It is quite evident that throughout our relatively short history there have always been those who seek to destroy this republic.

Yet I do know that the next morning, when we were out again in the barn milking cows, we felt even more grateful to be an American — probably because we inherently knew that by God’s providence we were a free people who had ideals. Coupled with self-discipline and a get-to-work attitude, we have the opportunity to choose our destinies.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Contact her at (605) 530-0017 or