‘We hold these truths to be self evident ...’
Public reading of Declaration of Independence becoming a Greenfield tradition to celebrate Fourth of July
Greenfield Lawyer and At Large Town Councilor Isaac Mass talks about the Declaration of Independence in his offices in The Arts Block where Fourth of July ceremonies were moved from the Town Common due to rain. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh salutes while Emery Henderson sings the Star Spangled Banner during the Fourth of July ceremonies on Friday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Boy Scout Leader Mark Maloney talks about the history of the American Flag during Fourth of July ceremonies held inside the law office of Isaac Mass due to the rain. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD – It starts off, “When in the course of human events ...” and continues in the second paragraph with probably its most recognized and quoted line, “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, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
About 40 people crowded into Greenfield At-large Town Councilor and local lawyer Isaac Mass’s law office in the Arts Block on Friday morning at 9 to participate in the reading or simply listen to others read the Declaration of Independence.
“This is the third annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July here in Greenfield,” said Mass. “We do this to benefit the entire community. I hope we keep the tradition alive.”
The reading has been held on the Town Common across the street from Mass’s office for the past two years, but heavy rain Friday morning forced organizers to take it inside.
Mass joined Rev. David Levandusky of Living Waters Assembly of God church in Greenfield, who has organized the event all three years, and many residents and community leaders as several took their turn reading a section from the statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Mass reminded people that it was actually signed on July 2, 1776 and published on July 4, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence announced that the 13 American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, considered themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states, no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation.
David Lewis of American Legion Post 81 in Greenfield said he enjoys being a reader.
“My situation is rare, because I have ancestors who fought on both sides during the Revolutionary War,” he said. “They were shooting at each other and luckily missed or I wouldn’t be here.”
Dennis MacLaughlin, a resident of Greenfield, said he was asked to participate and thought it was a great idea.
“Our founding fathers committed to our country and I wanted to do the same, so I’ve committed to this each year,” said MacLaughlin.
George Brosky and his wife, Nan, from Greenfield also took turns reading.
“This is our second year,” said Brosky. “It’s important to show residents of Greenfield the importance of the Declaration and what it still means to us today.”
Levandusky offered the opening prayer and the ceremony started 17 minutes late because organizers waited for Mayor William Martin, who was supposed to participate.
Martin said in a phone interview later in the morning that he thought it had been cancelled because of the rain. He said he was sorry he missed it.
Fifteen-year-old Emery Henderson of Southampton sang the Star Spangled Banner. She said she loves singing at events for veterans.
“It’s my way of giving back,” she said.
Then, everyone joined to sing “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless the USA.”
Former Precinct 4 Councilor Mark Maloney, who is a Boy Scout leader, gave a short history of the American flag and talked about how Americans pledge the idea of their country, not a president, not a religious leader, just the flag and what it stands for to all.
The entire ceremony lasted about 45 minutes.
“Remember the sacrifice of and the risk our founding fathers took,” said Mass. “Listen to the words of the Declaration of Independence very carefully. They did a good job.”
Mass said he wanted to encourage everyone to especially remember the risks people then took for what they believed in.
“We don’t take the same kind of risks today,” he said “We don’t have to because of them. We have more privilege and better lives because of those who signed the Declaration of Independence.”
Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh read the names of those who signed from New England and others read the rest of the names before the ceremony ended.