Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Say what you like about NPR, but for several years now they've followed a lovely, moving tradition each Independence Day.

At the end of Morning Edition, the staff members read a few lines each of the Declaration of Independence. The whole thing.

One aspect of this that makes it especially touching is that some of the voices you hear have passed on... and when I hear Red Barber's voice during this piece, I lose it, everytime, not only because he's dead... but so are every one of the people whose signatures appear at the bottom of the parchment. They wrote this amazing document with the faith that it would still be around 200-some-odd years later. But they wouldn't.

Read it. All of it. Read it out loud if you've a mind to. Listen to what's coming out of your mouth. Imagine being one of the framers and knowing how much trouble you were about to be in. Do cajones like that exist anywhere today?

Note: Make sure there are tissues nearby.

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine,
One of the great nation, the nation of many nations-the smallest the same and the largest the same,
A southerner soon as a northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable,
A Yankee bound my own way .... ready for trade .... my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhom in my deerskin leggings,
A boatman over the lakes or bays or along coasts .... a Hoosier, a Badger, a Buckeye,'
A Louisianian or Georgian, a poke-easy from sandhills and pines,
At home on Canadian snowshoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of iceboats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians .... comrade of free northwesterners, loving their big proportions,
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen - comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat;
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfulest,
A novice beginning experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and trade and rank, of every caste and religion,
Not merely of the New World but of Africa Europe or Asia .... a wandering savage,
A farmer, mechanic, or artist .... a gentleman, sailor, lover or quaker,
A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician or priest.
(Walt Whitman, 1885)


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