Happy Birthday, America

This week’s topic is one I came up with. Since the Independence Day holiday falls during this week, I thought I’d focus on our nation. And an important part of who we are is knowing where we’ve been. So I asked everyone, “If you could choose to be present at one event in America’s history, what would it be and why?”

I confess I’m a history nut. I get lost in stories from past generations, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction. My college advisor tried to talk me out of it, but I took a second minor in history simply because I loved to read about past people and events. It wasn’t unusual for me to stay awake all night to finish reading a book – or write a term paper! Two historical eras stood out for me: England during the Tudor period, and the American Civil War.

Since the Tudor period doesn’t apply here, let’s look at the Civil War, or War Between the States, depending on where you are. This was a time when Americans fought against other Americans. With guns. People who were your friends – even family – were suddenly the enemy. I just can’t imagine that. When our second son was in high school, he contemplated joining the Air Force. While we supported him, we also feared for him. Things were pretty dicey in the Persian Gulf at that time, and we weren’t sure how we’d handle it if he was sent there in harm’s way. He eventually decided to follow a different path, but being aware of the draft laws we held our breaths until he and his brother turned 26. But so many of our friends have sent their sons and daughters off, and it’s not uncommon to see prayer requests for them on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as in group texts and emails. And we all send prayers of thanks each time one of our own is able to return home.

We live in a difficult time, but we’re able to support each other. The moms in the 1860s didn’t have that kind of support. And the only way to communicate was through letters – if they were able to read and write. Some families endured fear and uncertainty for four years or more. So it had to have come as good news for mothers of both sides when the war ended in 1865. And this brings me to my choice of which historical event I would like to have witnessed.

Lincoln's_Gettysburg_Address,_Gettysburg

By David Bachrach [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

President Lincoln’s speech at Gettsburg on November 19, 1863 is one of the best known in American History. It’s short and to the point. It’s eloquent in it simplicity. And it articulates the very reason why families like mine came here and stayed. Unlike Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, there is no video record of Lincoln’s remarks at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, so we have to imagine what it was like to stand on that dusty field on that autumn day. I’ve heard several Lincoln impersonators deliver that address, each with his own interpretation of the way Mr. Lincoln spoke. But I found this particular video enlightening. Mr. Mansfield prefaces the speech with what he believes to be Lincoln’s thoughts as he got ready to speak. It really sets the scene for me, on this Independence Day.

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About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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16 Responses to Happy Birthday, America

  1. I thought long and hard about this. What an opportunity that would be, to go back in time and witness a part of history responsible for shaping a country. The Gettysburg speech was one I considered. It was absolutely one of the most important speeches of our country and lasted a little over two minutes. (The guy who spoke before Lincoln talked for an hour or more, I think.) But, in the end, I wouldn’t choose that speech. I think I would choose Washington’s Farewell Address. The advice there is so important and I’ve always been amazed at the wisdom he had. It’s like he could predict the future. Alexander Hamilton actually wrote his farewell address, but it was everything Washington believed. And I do believe he was right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Washington’s farewell address is another great choice, too! It warns citizens against what could happen, and it’s hard to believe he had such insight so early in our country’s existence. Yes, I’ve always been amazed that Lincoln wasn’t actually intended to be the main speaker that day. If I were Edward Everett I’d probably be in a hurry to give up the podium to the President! I guess I’m more drawn to speeches that are more concise – even when a speaker (or writer) is good, I can only keep my focus for a limited time. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts, Kara!

      Like

  2. jeff7salter says:

    That was an interesting rendition… much more “casual” (i.e. conversational) than I had seen of other people delivering it.
    When I was in a college speech class, I delivered Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. I had found some contemporaneous newspaper accounts which described how he delivered it and what he sounded like. I did not attempt to mimic that, but used it as part of the introduction.
    Certainly a fascinating period of our young nation’s history.
    And, depending on what region you live in, one which still bears bitter wounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes. I debated choosing this because of the regional differences. Still, I’m hoping there is enough optimism in his words to encourage inclusion rather than separation.
      I was also surprised at the conversational delivery. When watching the various impersonations on YouTube there were several like that, rather than the more authoritative tone taken by some. But then I remember that Lincoln is described as a humble and modest man, so maybe this is fitting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. darcyflynn says:

    When we homeschooled our son I had him memorize that speech in preparation for our trip to Gettysburg. As an 11 year old, he stood where Lincoln stood and beautifully delivered it. I so wish I’d filmed him. It was a special and proud moment for my husband and I.
    To answer your question, I’d like to have been one of George Washington’s spies during the Revolutionary War.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      How thrilling to see your son deliver that speech! I’ve often wished I could have a video of various moments in our kids lives. As for being a spy, you’re a much braver woman than me! I thought about choosing a particular event during the American Revolution, but then decided I would be far too timid. Thanks so much for weighing in, Darcy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my sons was in Iraq and Afghanistan and it was terrible, even with messaging him live, the phone calls and emails; I cannot imagine what loved ones went through in previous wars.(My other son is just out fighting wildfires again and when he is out of cell tower range I go nuts!)
    It was compulsory on VA for every kid in 8th grade public school to recite the Gettysburg Address. If you did not ‘get’ what had happened before you memorized this, it brought it home quickly. That was the advantage that I had, being born and growing up in the DC suburbs; history was all around. We spent many days driving down the highway to Manassas Battlefield , going through the museums and walking the paths through the battlefield..the house that became a hospital with the surgeons’ ‘tools’ is particularly chilling.
    We were also not a far drive from Gettysburg. It is sobering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I visited the Gettysburg battlefield with my family. I think I was in junior high at the time, and going to the museums there was what started my interest in history. I agree, the hospital with the tools and instruments they used back then are scary.

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  5. love the American Revolutionary period. At first I thought I would have liked to witness the Americans routing the Hessians at Christmas in 1776 (Washington crossing the Delaware), but then decided that would be too gory. (What was I thinking?!) I really would love to see some of the debates that took place over the Declaration of Independence. I’ve seen “1776” which must give a good idea, but I think it would be fascinating to go back and see how the various factions battled for their preferences, and how they ultimately compromised, especially considering our political climate today.

    As far as the Civil War (which is the term I was taught), down here in southeastern Virginia, it’s “The War of Northern Aggression.” 🙂 A few years ago I read the diary of a young girl who lived in the area at that time (“Love and Loss: A Virginia Girl’s Civil War Diary” by Mary Octavia Tabb), and it really brought home how the southerners felt, how passionate they were about the cause. Here’s a brief quote from the beginning: “1863 January 1st – The New Years day has past (sic) and now it is night, such a lovely day it has been. Would that the state of affairs were in accordance with the day, but alas it cannot be. As I look back to the past year how gloomy a greater part of it seems, and oh, it is too true that the many dear forms and faces I have known, some of them are no more. Ah, how sad to reflect on, to know that cherished hopes and bright anticipations lie withering dying under the scorching effects of Civil commotion caused by the blind fanaticism of an invading foe who threatens all that the heart of our Nation holds dear.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, the 1860s were definitely somber time in our nation’s history. Both sides were resolute in their beliefs. I’ve seen 1776 twice (as a member of the audience), and played in the pit, and it was fascinating to see how the founding fathers resolved their issues. Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing your thoughts!

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  6. Diane Burton says:

    Great post, Patty. We took our young kids to Gettysburg. I imagined how things might have been back then.

    I wished I’d been present at JFK’s inauguration. I saw it on TV, of course, but to be present and see it live, to feel the energy and optimism would have been amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I’m not sure if I saw JFK’s inauguration, but I remember hearing about it in school. I wasn’t able to appreciate it until much later, but you’re right – the energy and optimism would have been incredible. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  7. Alicia Dean says:

    What an excellent post!! Great job, Patricia! I’ve never been much of a history buff, but I have always been fascinated with the Civil War. It really is mind-boggling to think of Americans at war with one another, having to kill their fellow Americans. And, like Leahs, comment mentioned…what a riveting passage, by the way…the south truly believed in what they were fighting for. It was their way of life, the only thing they knew. I would love to read that diary. Thanks for the wonderful post and giving me something to think about on America’s birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joselyn says:

    My interest in American history jumps around, but doesn’t settle in the Civil War very often. I think because of how dark the time was… brother against brother, the vast numbers of men who died.

    I’ve recently caught up on TURN and am partially fascinated by Benedict Arnold as well as George Washington. I had to do some research to learn how closely the show follows history (it’s pretty close). It’s interesting to me to see what lead to Arnold’s betrayal and how he felt it was justified, but how that choice affected his life as well.

    I’m not sure what events I would want to witness. So many come to mind either profound moments in the nation’s history or smaller things that built legends like Wyatt Earp.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, it was a very dark time, which is why I feel the end of it would be so uplifting. Of course, the Reconstruction was also full of problems, as books like Gone With the Wind and Mysti Parker’s book A Time for Everything illustrate so well.
      Recent television shows are great for stirring interest in history. I haven’t watched Turn but I’ve heard good things about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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