Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday America

I am the flag of the United States of America. My name is Old Glory.
I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice. I stand for freedom.
I am confident. I am proud.

Listen to Elvis sing “America the Beautiful” while you read this post.

On the way to the Palos Verdes Estates “Old fashioned Fourth of July” party, I stopped at Starbucks for my daily latte (grande, no foam, single-shot). Good friend Rori Roje said “Oh, you’re going to see Mayberry RFD meets The Rich and the Famous.” Rori was half right.

The PVE event was celebrating its forty-sixth year and it looked and felt like small town, mid-America transplanted to the gorgeous Pacific coast. Guests were treated to music by the Unabridged Big Band, to a stunning rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Shauna Steiner Torok, recognition of all the military services, an apple pie contest (the top two finishers were men!), a patriotic bike parade, a puppet show and face painting and awards for children essayists, Americanism (De De Hicks), volunteerism (Josh Liu) and the Norris Heritage of Freedom Award to noted historian and keynote speaker Kevin Starr.

De De Hicks spoke with heartfelt passion about what it means to be an American. She told us about the neighbor’s house she saw burn to the ground when she was only eight and how, by the end of the next day, the family was re-supplied with everything they needed to live from the generosity of the community. Experiences like that helped to mold De De’s volunteer spirit, a spirit she sees in abundance in America, “the greatest country in the whole wide universe!!”

Kevin Starr (CA Librarian Emeritus) is the author of a multi-volume series on the history of California, collectively called “America and the California Dream.” The most recent edition is The Coast of Dreams (2004), a concise cultural history of California since 1990. In 2006 Starr was awarded a National Humanities Medal. Starr opened with a reminiscence of his time at the White House when he received the Humanities Medal from President Bush. He contrasted the classical Greek architecture of the White House with the Mediteranian architecture of Malaga Cove in PVE. Yet, for all the thousands of miles between us, we are all one country, “from sea to shining sea.” He talked at length and with wonderful detail about the Westward movement and the incorporation of California into the Union. He asked the founding fathers and mothers to join us in this day of celebration.

It reminded me of what is sadly slipping away in much of America: a deep and abiding sense of the cultural history of our great nation. Dennis Prager calls for a July Fourth seder. “Perhaps the major reason Jews have been able to keep their national identity alive for 3,000 years, the last 2,000 of which were nearly all spent dispersed among other nations, is ritual. National memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies. That is the secret at the heart of the Jewish people's survival that the American people must learn if they are to survive.

“When Jews gather at the Passover Seder they recount the exodus from Egypt, an event that occurred 3,200 years ago, as if it happened to them. That has to be the motto of the July Fourth Seder. We all have to retell the story in as much detail as possible and to regard ourselves as if we were present at the nation's founding in 1776.”

As parents and grandparents we need to see to it that the history and values of our great country are taught and are cherished by our kids and grandkids. I saw an example of that in Malaga Cove today. As the great social theorist Alexis de Tocqueville commented long ago in Democracy in America, “the village or township is the only association which is so perfectly natural that, wherever a number of men are collected, it seems to constitute itself.” That perfectly natural township is alive and well on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.


Blogger Nelson said...


Sorry to ask here, but you didn't leave an email. I was looking at some of the blogs from the Bear Flag League and I found yours interesting(as well as one of the last ones standing-congratulations). I wonder if you'd like to exchange links?




The blog is broken down into different sections.

The politics one is:

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for that birthday tribute. As I witnessed today at the RPV celebration, and on TV news and interviews, I can't believe how many people had it wrong about the meaning of July 4th. On at least 6 or more occasions (that I heard) they referred to "honoring those who have died fighting for this country." Now, we just had such a day on 30 May.....but I suppose that I should be happy that they were even thinking about those who have sacrificed so much for us.

But July 4th should be etched deeply in the minds of not just Americans, but for all peoples as a unique philosophical break from the rule of men (kings, etc.) to the rule of law. Our early history demonstrated that under this form of government it was possible for all to live better than the kings of old. Sadly, we have deviated from the principles that made this movement possible. I think that it was Ben Franklin who warned, "Gentlemen, we have created a republic....if you can keep it" or words to that effect. Thanks again, Bill.


2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NICE BLOG BILL!! Happy 4th to you also!! Good job on this one – and when we went to Alpine Village last night for dinner and saw how empty it was, Marc and I both thought it would be great if they would hold a 4th of July celebration for all those of German ancestry (including Marc and Me) in America also!!


2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, you didn't go to your own city's July 4th celebration? And you call youself a patriot? Wow. Your e-mail was great until you mentioned the "P" word, Preager. I just don't like his political position but I love the Jewish people. Oh well, it was a grand day any way.

The Oracle (Vic)

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a nice piece. Isn’t it interesting how few flags I saw flying yesterday. I’m glad you had such a nice experience.


2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, You captured the spirit of the PVE event perfectly. What a nice day.


2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said! I couldnn't agree more. I read Dennis Prager's article and think he is exactly right.

Our schools have stopped teaching about our greatest presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Reagan, etc. They don't teach the children what Memorial Day is remembering and honoring. They don't give the students the real story of the 4th of July so they
understand what the parades and fireworks are all about.

Our schools are most lax about not having the children say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, so they know it by heart. They don't sing the "Star Spangled Banner" at all, so the words come automatically when they hear the music. How about "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" too?

When I was in elementary school in Brooklyn, we had assembly once a week. Everyone wore a white shir(boys) or blouse (girls) and navy blue pants or skirt. Boys wore navy ties and girls wore orange ties.

These were colors of the school district, but the overall effect was one of respect for the honoring of our flag, and by the pledge, our country as well.

There were some very poor families whose children attended school with me, but everyone was proud to have their children dressed appropriately. The uniformity also was a leveler so that no one appeared to be better dressed than anyone else. We all enjoyed these assemblies because they made us proud to be Americans. We all recited the Pledge with solemn demeanor, and we sang the patriotic songs with vigor.

I hope there will be a return to teaching how wonderful our country is, and how many struggled to create the USA, and how many are still struggling in the military to preserve this great country of ours.

Didn't mean to preach to the choir or to go on so long. I enjoy your blogs and hope you send them to a wide audience.


2:56 PM  

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