July 2, 2019
Written by: Michelle Rich Goode
As an American Civilization major in college and high school teacher, I loved helping my students understand the meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Much of this was too esoteric for them to truly grasp at their young ages, though I made them memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and tested them on what each phrase meant.
I am a lover of books and history and recently read a historic fictional account of the American Revolution told from the perspective of many of the main characters involved on all sides entitled The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara. Chapter 14 features the episode after the rebel colonists defeated the British in a surprise attack under the leadership of General George Washington on Christmas Day 1776. On December 30, 1776, Washington is tasked with a speech to his army who are weary after two major defeats prior to this first pivotal victory.
These men were poorly clothed often wearing rags for shoes, hungry, and wounded, yet they have reason to celebrate. Washington’s inspiring speech to challenge them to stay on and fight with fresh troops when they just wanted to return to their families is one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever read. He helps his men see how critical their role is and why they are fighting. The last paragraph of this speech is worth restating here:
“No army rises to greatness by the starch and finery of its uniform, no victory relies on the decorations that drape the chest of its commander. The victory you won on this ground was won by every man in this line. You won this fight for your wives, your homes, for your country. Everything you hold dear has been made more secure by your patriotism and your heroism. I know of your fatigue. I know of the hardships you have endured. But without you, I do not believe this nation can survive. If you will consent to serve for one month longer, you will preserve the cause of liberty. I believe it is this army alone that can decide our destiny.”
Most of the men who gathered stayed on and changed the course of history so we have the freedoms we enjoy today. This 4th of July, when we have our BBQ’s, pool parties, and fireworks, I hope we can remember the patriots who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today and the real reason we celebrate the 4th of July, the day the colonies declared independence.