John Adams sat in his accustomed chair in Independence Hall and waited for the bell to toll at midnight. He knew it wasn’t “his” bell anymore – you couldn’t expect physical objects to last forever – but the chiming of the centennial bell in the tower meant as much to him, if not more, than the tones of the original Liberty Bell. His country had survived for 100 years. Now there was a bicentennial bell, too. He smiled. This July 4th marked the 235th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America.
There had been years when he hadn’t expected the country to survive. The Civil War had sickened him; it could have been avoided if he could have convinced his fellow congressmen to abolish slavery. That first July 4th should have been about freedom for all men who lived in this land. It hadn’t been though, and it was inevitable that future Americans would have had to correct this terrible wrong. The price had been astronomical, but John had been relieved when freedom had prevailed and the union had survived. He wondered what his peers would have said if he had been able to tell them that there would be an African-American president in the year 2011.
Yes, his country had come a long way. Now there were new challenges to face. Who would have expected that foreign policy would become even more complicated and dangerous than it had been 235 years ago? American soldiers were dying in distant lands and terrorists were preying on the American people in their own backyards. He blamed it on technological advances that no one who had lived in his time could even imagine. Far from the days when news took days, weeks, or months to arrive, people today could talk to someone on the other side of the world instantly. Ideas transferred, plots hatched, lessons taught – all in the blink of an eye. You could even get on a plane and be in England in 6 hours, although John didn’t see why you’d want to go there. He still held a bit of a grudge.
The economy worried him, too. It was a big problem that there weren’t enough jobs. What had happened to the small businesses and small farms that had been the financial backbone of the country? He had been a proponent of a strong federal government, but there were times now when he thought that he may have been wrong. The government had overstepped its boundaries; it was too large and the taxes to support it were too high. Borrowing money from other countries to support the federal government had weakened the United States. The American people needed to wake up before they found themselves governed by someone else. His generation had fought for their freedom. It was time for this new generation to do the same.
The centennial bell rang out the dawn of another July 4th. He wished that he could help them fight, but he had long ago done all he could. He’d trust that the American spirit would live on. Americans would continue to live free, strong, and proud. They just had to want it badly enough. He suspected that they did.
Celebrate freedom, America.