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AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY

It’s time to start planning an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration. To set the mood, decorate your meeting room with red, white, and blue balloons and streamers. Design star-spangled T-shirts and patriotic hats for participants to wear. Pass out small American flags to wave. Ask your group members: What traditions are associated with Fourth of July celebrations? Did they mention parades, speeches, bonfires, fireworks, picnics, and concerts?

Congress established the Fourth of July (Independence Day) as a legal holiday in 1941. Senior adults have many fond recollections of this favorite American holiday. Ask: How did your family celebrate our nation’s birthday? Did you host family gatherings or attend community celebrations? Did you ever participate in a national celebration, such as America’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976? Have you ever spent the holiday abroad? Encourage group members to share a favorite Fourth of July memory, e.g., a small-town parade with Little League baseball teams, local politicians, baton twirlers, high school marching bands, floats, and fire trucks.

Talk about national patriotic symbols such as the American flag. A salute to Old Glory is an appropriate activity for Independence Day. Ask participants this trivia question: According to legend, who sewed the first American flag? (Answer: Betsy Ross). Encourage group members to talk about what comes to mind as they see the flag of the United States fly across the sky. Discuss the significance of the flag’s colors (red for courage; white for purity/truth; blue for justice). Discuss etiquette for displaying the U.S. flag. Invite a Scout group to demonstrate how to correctly fold a flag and to talk about disposing of old flags. Encourage group members to “voice” their love for America by singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the first stanza of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Fourth of July is all about patriotism, or love of and devotion to America. Ask your participants to share words that remind them of America, e.g., Coca-Cola, baseball, Mom’s apple pie, politics. Encourage them to name what they like best about living in America.

Many families choose to visit a park for a picnic on the fourth of July. Ask your group: What is your favorite picnic meal? Plan a feast of summertime foods! Feature some popular American picnic foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, fruit salad, and strawberry shortcake. Share memories of fireworks displays.

Music is a big part of any national celebration. Bolster spirits with some patriotic songs. Make simple musical instruments from recycled materials and tap along as your group listens to a CD of popular patriotic tunes. Highlight a patriotic composer such as George Cohan or John Phillips Sousa. For a good time with friends, try a sing-along with your group. Serve homemade lemonade.

Read some presidential speeches given on the Fourth of July or share some patriotic poetry to celebrate our nation’s heritage. A helpful resource is Caroline Kennedy’s book, A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love, published by Hyperion, 2003.

AMERICAN SPEECH QUIZ

The Fourth of July is often a day for public officials to deliver speeches on liberty and freedom. Ask your participants: What does freedom mean to you? Read the lyrics to the song “America the Beautiful.” Talk about the meaning of the lyrics. Challenge your history buffs to guess who delivered the following speeches.

  1. The Fourteen Points (1918) – Woodrow Wilson
  2. I Have a Dream (1963) – Martin Luther King Jr.
  3. Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death (1775) – Patrick Henry
  4. The Four Freedoms (1941) – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  5. We Shall Overcome (civil rights speech, 1965) – Lyndon Johnson
  6. First Presidential Inaugural Address (1789) – George Washington
  7. Gettysburg Address (1863) – Abraham Lincoln
  8. Day of Infamy Speech (1941) – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  9. Announcement of the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb (1945) – Harry Truman
  10. Duty, Honor, Country (1962) – General Douglas MacArthur

Read some presidential speeches given on the Fourth of July or share some patriotic poetry to celebrate our nation’s heritage. A helpful resource is Caroline Kennedy’s book, A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love, published by Hyperion, 2003.

THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH

“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY” written by Sue Hansen. © 2005 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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