Special Presentation of the National Archives July 4 2021 Reading Ceremony

Jul 4, 2021 20:00 · 4993 words · 24 minute read

David Ferriero>> Greetings from the National Archives building in Washington, DC which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples.

00:08 - I’m David Ferriero Archivist of the United States and head of the National Archives and Records Administration.

00:14 - July 4th is a special occasion here at the National Archives. We are the home to the original 1776 Declaration of Independence.

00:22 - We like to say July 4th starts here and for over 50 years we have had a ceremony in this building to honor the Declaration of Independence and we hope to celebrate here again soon.

00:34 - But today we’ll have a virtual Declaration of Independence reading ceremony.

00:39 - In this program you’ll see highlights of past fourth of July celebrations here at the National Archives.

00:45 - Even though we can’t be together this year we can focus on the future.

00:49 - In 2026, five short years from now, we’ll be celebrating America’s 250th.

00:55 - 250 years since our founding fathers signed the Declaration of independence jeopardizing their lives committing treason and risking everything for American independence.

01:07 - We have the signers to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today.

01:11 - Even though this year’s celebration will not look like our usual Fourth of July festivities we can look forward to marking the 250th anniversary as a healthier, stronger and more perfect union.

01:23 - Before we start I would like to thank all of you for joining our virtual ceremony.

01:28 - I hope to see you in person at the National Archives building very soon. Have a safe healthy and enjoyable Independence Day.

01:37 - [music] Soledad O’Brien>> When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people…

01:46 - this phrase is where it began more than 240 years ago.

01:50 - The desires of one people to unite together forming a new nation to break free from the tyranny of a king.

02:01 - A nation based on the principles that all men are created equal and have the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

02:13 - This radical notion shook the world and became a compelling testament to the strength and spirit of what it means to be united and free.

02:25 - This is our Declaration of Independence. If the Constitution is the road map for democracy the Declaration of Independence is the road on which we all travel.

02:39 - Abraham Lincoln called it “a rebuke and a stumbling block to tyranny and oppression”.

02:46 - It declares our liberation from dictatorship, our foundations for democracy and our formal pledge to abide by these terms at any cost.

02:59 - Over the centuries the powerful ideas of this document continue to inspire not only our country but countries around the world to fight for freedom, justice and equality.

03:14 - [music] It sounds like a dream, and in a way it is.

03:21 - It’s the American dream. We are the only country with the word dream attached to it.

03:28 - It is a dream in which people from all over the world arrive as immigrants and create the mosaic that makes us stronger.

03:37 - In America you can start with nothing and build an industry.

03:43 - In America you can turn a spark of an idea into a lasting legacy.

03:49 - This is more than just a dream, it is our way of life.

03:56 - At our best we embrace our differences and allow all to flourish, when we fail to include all we find the courage to face our shortcomings and work together to continue building a more perfect union.

04:12 - It took Thomas Jefferson three weeks to pen the Declaration of Independence.

04:17 - With the hope that his words would serve as an expression of the American mind.

04:24 - We still stand by those words today. The permanent home of the Declaration of Independence is in the National Archives.

04:35 - Right here in our nation’s capital the Archives preserves and protects all sides of the American story and like the principal idea in our country’s proclamation the information it contains is free, accessible to all who seek it.

04:53 - A walk through its main Rotunda is to exalt in the story of America.

05:00 - It is, as journalist Cokie Roberts once described - America’s cathedral to Democracy.

05:09 - For 50 years the National Archives has held a July 4th celebration of the Declaration of Independence on its grand front steps.

05:18 - It is the traditional kickoff event for all of the patriotic activities in our nation’s capital.

05:24 - Circumstances have made it difficult for all who wish to celebrate with us in Washington, DC to do so this year, but that should not mute our collective spirit to celebrate our independence.

05:36 - So wherever you are and whomever you are with, Please wave your flags and join us in our celebration of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives.

05:49 - July 4th begins here. [applause] [music] We begin our celebration with the presentation of the colors by the Third United States Infantry Old Guard Continental Color Guard, and the singing of the National Anthem by retired Army Master Sergeant Caleb Green.

06:14 - [fife and drum music] Ho - Present - Ho! Caleb Green>> O-oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what’s so proudly we hail at the twilight’s last gleaming.

07:08 - Who’s broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o’re the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.

07:22 - And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

07:37 - Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’re the land of the free and the home of the brave.

07:57 - [applause] Soledad O’Brien>> The documents, artifacts, photographs and films in the holdings of the National Archives tell the story of America and the mission of the National Archives is to protect preserve and make these documents available to you, the American people.

08:22 - Here now is the person to whom our nation has entrusted the care of our documented history, Vietnam veteran and 10th Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.

08:35 - David Ferriero>> Good morning, thanks to all of you for joining us in this 241st celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and greetings to the folks in 10 of our presidential libraries who are live streaming this ceremony this morning.

08:53 - I’m originally from Beverly, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American navy.

08:58 - In Beverly the 4th of July meant a real bonfire built of kerosene soaked barrels, fireworks at West Beach or a trip to Boston for the Boston Pops on the esplanade performing the 1812 Overture and fireworks over the Charles River.

09:15 - And you all have your own fourth of July commemorations, a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate summer.

09:23 - My own view of this day changed when I became Archivist of the United States.

09:27 - I realized that we own this day, the 4th of July starts here, here at the National Archives building.

09:35 - We are the keeper of the original Declaration of Independence.

09:38 - This seminal document signed by our founding fathers.

09:42 - It is enshrined in the Rotunda of the National Archives behind me.

09:47 - Just think of the courage it took to sign the Declaration and how important independence from England meant for them to risk their lives.

09:56 - It was an act of treason for those who signed, they became wanted men, traitors to the king.

10:02 - By the end of the Revolutionary War more than half of the signers suffered direct, personal consequences for their support of American independence.

10:11 - We have the signers to thank for the freedom and celebrations we enjoy today.

10:16 - The Declaration of Independence has had an amazing journey since it was signed on August 2, 1776.

10:24 - During the Revolutionary War the Declaration was rolled up and moved from city to city as Congress moved to avoid capture by the British.

10:33 - When the British were burning Washington during the war of 1812 Secretary of State James Monroe directed State Department clerks to gather up the important documents and get them out of town.

10:44 - They wrapped the Declaration and other precious documents in bags of linen, commandeered wagons on the street and in the dead of night headed for Virginia with the records of the country First they hid the Declaration in an unused grist mill near Chain Bridge in Virginia, then in a private home in Leesburg until the war was over.

11:05 - During the 1800s the Declaration was on exhibit for long periods at several locations in Washington where it was exposed to sunlight, fluctuating temperatures and humidity, all of which took their toll on the document.

11:19 - Finally officials took note of these effects of aging and wrapped the Declaration and stored it flat at the State Department where it joined the Constitution until 1921 when President Harding signed an order transferring both of these documents to the Library of Congress. Just before Pearl Harbor and the U. S. entrance into World War II the Library sent the Declaration and the Constitution to Fort Knox for safekeeping, where they remained until September 1944 when they came back to the Library of Congress.

11:51 - Finally the documents came to their rightful home here at the National Archives, the transfer occurred on December 13, 1952 with great pomp and circumstance and security as the newly encased Declaration of Independence was carried up these steps with a military procession into the Rotunda and the Declaration of Independence was safe until 2004 when a good treasure hunter, Nicholas Cage, [laughter] cleverly stole it during a party in this building to protect it from an evil treasure hunter.

12:31 - [laughter] And our national treasure was miraculously and circuitously restored to its rightful place and now poses the most often question in the Rotunda - Can we see the back? [laughter] And I can tell you for certain that the only thing on the back of the Declaration are the words - original Declaration of Independence dated 4 July 1776.

12:57 - [applause] So thanks for coming out today.

13:02 - The National Archives is home of the Declaration of Independence and July 4th starts here.

13:08 - [applause] Soledad O’Brien>> Now let’s take a trip back to the era of our independence with the colonial uniforms and music of the Third United States Infantry Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

13:20 - Specialist Nikolai Feduchak >>Good morning ladies and gentlemen, the United States Army Military District of Washington under the command of Brigadier General Omar Jones is proud to present the United States Army Old Guard Fife and drum Corps! [applause] [cheeering] The Third United States Infantry Regiment the Old Guard traces its lineage back to George Washington’s original Continental Army and today serves as the army’s official escort to the President of the United States.

13:52 - In 1960 the Fife and Drum Corps was organized to participate in official ceremonies and to revive our country’s musical heritage From the days of the American Revolution through the 19th century fifes, drums and bugles were vital to military order and discipline.

14:09 - Field musicians were used to issue commands during battle and to regulate the duty day, signaling when to rise when to eat and when the day ends.

14:18 - This morning’s show paints a series of pictures from the life of a Continental soldier musician.

14:23 - We open at the beginning of the duty day with a training scene.

14:27 - In the 18th century signals like attention and breakfast call would have sent the soldiers into action here we begin with those signals and accompany their daily training with marching tunes including Drums and Guns and Simple [sic] Josha.

14:44 - [bugle, drums and fife music] [applause] [music] Soledad O’Brien>>The Declaration of Independence was our first act of unity as a nation.

17:17 - With a vision for a better way of life we persevered against an unimaginable force at the threat of personal peril and impossible odds of success, that unifying moment established the two pillars of our national character, service and sacrifice.

17:40 - [airplane engines and explosions] Over time our character has been tested in many ways, from hurricanes and tornadoes to wildfires and floods we have weathered the fiercest of natural disasters to help our communities heal and get back on their feet.

18:04 - [dramatic music] During two world wars and several regional conflicts we helped our allies on foreign fronts while we rolled up our sleeves rationed and sacrificed at home.

18:22 - We lifted ourselves from the depths of the great depression with the tenacity of public works programs, Social Security and Medicare to ensure every American gets help when they need it.

18:38 - We fought back and stood strong against acts and threats of terrorism and we continue to take strides towards creating a more perfect union and equality for all by seeking to right wrongs and provide justice to the oppressed.

19:02 - Americans respond in times of crisis and we do not stop until the work is done with service and sacrifice. We have overcome the monumental challenges of our past and as was set forth so many years ago in the Declaration of Independence, it is these principles upon which we will persevere against the challenges we face now and in the future.

19:32 - This is who we are. this is America. Specialist Nikolai Feduchak>> The soldiers of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps wear uniforms patterned after those of General Washington’s Continental Army In order to be easily identified military musicians wore the reverse colors of the regiment to which they were assigned.

19:57 - At that time American infantry soldiers wore blue coats with red facings thus the musicians wore redcoats with blue facings.

20:05 - At the end of the day troops would often gather around the campfire to relax and the musicians would provide entertainment.

20:12 - Picture yourselves in such a setting now as we feature the fife and bugle groups in a scene reminiscent of the soldier’s respite following a challenging day.

20:23 - [fife, drum and bugle music] [applause] [cheering] Soledad O’Brien>> As has been a National Archives tradition for over 50 years join us now for a reading of the Declaration of Independence by our distinguished group of guests General George Washington, Mr. John Hancock and Mrs. Abigail Adams.

23:17 - [applause] General George Washington>> In Congress July 4th 1776 the unanimous declaration of the 13 United States of America When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.

23:56 - A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

24:06 - Abigail Adams>> We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

24:23 - [applause] That’s to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, [applause] and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.

25:09 - [applause] John Hancock>> Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer - while evils are sufferable than to write themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed, but when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object envisions a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off government and to provide new guards for their future security.

26:08 - [applause] General George Washington>> Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.

26:24 - The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.

26:32 - [booing] All having indirect object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states, [booing] to prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world.

26:52 - Soledad O’Brien>> Now to read the grievances against King George the Third we have three of the leaders of the Second Continental Congress.

26:59 - Mr. Thomas Jefferson, Mr. John Adams, and Dr. Benjamin Franklin, these gentlemen know the words of the Declaration better than anyone else.

27:09 - All three served on the committee to draft the Declaration and Mr. Jefferson was the primary author. Thomas Jefferson>> He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

27:24 - [booing] Dr. Benjamin Franklin>> He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operations till his ascent should be obtained.

27:38 - [booing] And when so suspended he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

27:45 - [booing] John Adams>> He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only! [booing] Thomas Jefferson>> He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

28:35 - [booing] Dr. Ben Franklin>> He has repeatedly dissolved representative houses for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

28:55 - [booing] John Adams>> He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be elected whereby the legislative powers incapable of annihilation have returned to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining in the meantime, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within! [booing] Thomas Jefferson>> He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

29:55 - [booing] Dr. Benjamin Franklin>> He has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

30:07 - [booing] John Adams>> He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries! [booing] Thomas Jefferson>>He has erected a multitude of new officers and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

30:38 - [booing] Dr. Benjamin Franklin>> He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.

30:49 - [booing] John Adams>> He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power! [booing] Thomas Jefferson>> He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us, for protecting them by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states, for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world, for imposing taxes on us without our consent.

31:41 - [booing] For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury.

31:51 - [booing] For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses, [booing] for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province.

32:05 - Establishing therein establishing there in an arbitrary government and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies.

32:23 - [booing] For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments.

32:36 - For suspending our legislatures and declaring themselves invested with the power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

32:47 - [booing] Dr. Benjamin Franklin>> He has abdicated government here by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

32:58 - [booing] John Adams>> He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people! [booing] Thomas Jefferson>> He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

33:43 - [booing] Dr. Benjamin Franklin>> He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, [booing] to become the executioners of their friends and brethren or to fall themselves by their hands.

34:02 - [booing] John Adams>> He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages sexes and conditions.

34:29 - [booing] [applause] Mr. Adams.

34:44 - John Hancock>> In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

35:01 - [booing] A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people! [booing] Abigail Adams>> Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren.

35:24 - We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

35:34 - We have reminded them of their circumstances of immigration and settlement here.

35:41 - We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations. Which would inevitably interrupt our connections and our correspondence.

36:00 - They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity- [booing] We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation and as we hold the rest of mankind enemies in war, in peace friends.

36:24 - [cheering] General George Washington>> We therefore the representatives of the United States of America, [cheering] in general congress assembled appealing to the supreme judge of the world or the rectitude of our intentions, do in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies, are and of right, ought to be free and independent states, HUZZAH! [applause] that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown! [cheering] And that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

37:26 - [cheering] And that as free and independent states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

37:45 - [cheering] John Hancock>> And for the support of this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence we humbly pledge to each other In Unison>> our lives our fortunes our sacred honor! HUZZAH HUZZAH! [applause] Soledad O’Brien>> There are 56 signers of the Declaration, these names will be read by private Edward “Ned” Hector of the Third Pennsylvania Artillery Company, a free black colonial soldier, patriot and an American hero.

38:38 - Edward “Ned” Hector>> Which one of you out here has courage, which one of you would be one to sign your own death warrants.

38:45 - These people were willing to sign their own death warrant.

38:52 - Attend now as I read their names, the honorable president of the Continental Congress John Hancock, HUZZAH! From Georgia! Button Gwinettt, Lyman Hall and George Wharton.

39:13 - HUZZAH! North Carolina! William Hooper, George Hughes and John Penn.

39:24 - HUZZAH! South Carolina! Edward Rutledge, Thomas Hayward, Jr. , Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Arthur Middleton.

39:38 - HUZZAH! Maryland! Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, and Charles Carroll of Carollton HUZZAH! Virginia! George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr. , Francis Lightfoot Lee and Carter Braxton HUZZAH! Pennsylvania! Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Climber, James Smith, James Taylor, James Wilson and George Ross HUZZAH! Delaware! Caesar Rodney, George Reed and Thomas McKean HUZZAH! New York! William Floyd, Phillip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Louis Morris HUZZAH! New Jersey! Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson and John Hart and Abraham Clark HUZZAH! New Hampshire! Matthew Thornton, Josiah Bartlett and William Whipple HUZZAH! Massachusetts! Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine and Elbridge Gerry HUZZAH! Rhode Island! Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery HUZZAH! finally Connecticut! Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams and Oliver Walcott HUZZAH! And attesting to this document is the secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thompson and to all of these brave men who were willing to sign this document Let us give them a HUZZAH!! HUZZAH! HUZZAH! Specialist Nikolai Feduchak>> We will now feature the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps drumline in a battle feature.

43:16 - [applause] [fife, drum and bugle music] [applause] Soledad O’Brien>>Please welcome the veterans and active duty service members of Voices of Service and their moving rendition of America the Beautiful.

46:09 - Oh Beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.

46:24 - For purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plain.

46:37 - Oh, America, sweet America, God shed His grace on Thee.

46:51 - And Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

47:06 - America, America, God shed His grace on Thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea. From sea to shining sea. Ooh.

47:59 - Soledad O’Brien>>Thank you for joining the National Archives July 4th celebration. The ceremony is coming to a close but the spirit of our independence lives on.

48:09 - Our national characteristics of service, sacrifice and unity will help us through these challenging times.

48:17 - And for whatever challenges we face in the future the National Archives is honored to continue its mission to protect, preserve and make public the entirety of the American story.

48:29 - Please visit archives. gov to learn more about the American story and how you are part of it.

48:35 - We are one people, we are united, we are America. Happy Fourth of July from the National Archives.

48:44 - [music] >>Did you hear the audience, did you hear how the people were behind what was read, Did you hear the spirit we felt it and it was quite an electrifying time to be up there and to hear their response.

49:03 - >>So this is the first one where I really get to see the expanse of the parade and really get to enjoy the portico and all the National Archives has to offer for the Fourth of July.

49:11 - >>Really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it and gives me a real good sense of history now.

49:16 - >> Oh the music was fantastic from the opening band all the way through to the drum and fife corps.

49:22 - >> It’s the energy, the people everybody’s celebrating what a great country we have.

49:28 - >>You can’t get a better feeling for loving your country than being right here where where it all started so this is the best place.

49:34 - >> We’re in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world and I just feel honored to be a part of it. >> The festive atmosphere everybody is enjoying having a great time uh it’s a very American patriotic feel.

49:49 - >> I came here today because i’m excited to see a super awesome parade and celebrate the 4th of July.

49:54 - When it calms down I’m definitely gonna go inside and check out the Declaration of Independence.

49:58 - >> To see the Declaration of Independence on 4th of July, I mean there’s nothing better.

50:03 - > We’re here to celebrate our nation’s capital 4th of July with you guys and visit all the great monuments and all the festivities.

50:11 - >> One reason why the Archives exist is to show our founding documents and tell the American story.

50:17 - >> Very special experience, it’s really special.

50:20 - > It’s awesome wonderful so so patriotic. >> Happy fourth of 4th of July! >> Happy fourth of 4th of July! >>Happy 4th of July from the National Archives! [music].