Celebrating American Independence
by NY Heroes Staff
Photographs by Chad Johnson
July 8, 2004
Even though it was a typically hazy, hot and humid July day in New York, there was enough of a breeze to make it comfortable. A buzz of excitement filled the air for the public reading of the Declaration of Independence at the flagpole, where those sacred words are engraved, right smack in the center of Union Square Park.
Of the 32 or so people who showed up for this occasion, some traveled from Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio—proving the unique value offered by the NY Heroes Society.
The gathering started with Founder and President, Robert Begley, greeting everyone and thanking Dr. Dianne Durante (in her absence) for initiating this idea. He then went on to lay the ground rules for the reading, which encouraged participation in the reading, divided into paragraph sections. At least half of those in attendance enthusiastically read from the inspiring document. Some proudly belted out sections of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” or “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men” and “these United Colonies are and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” Others spoke with broken English accents, but were nevertheless proud to raise their voice for themselves and the country they chose to live in.
After the final line was read, VP Arshak Benlian was called upon to read the names of those heroes who pledged their Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor. He did so with profound solemnity.
Begley followed the reading by recalling an interview with Dr. Andrew Bernstein, aired on Begley’s former cable TV program The Voice of Reason. In that interview, Dr. Bernstein cited Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead as a moral declaration of independence, whereas Jefferson's Declaration was a political statement. Begley then read a part of his favorite passage from the novel “independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value.”
Afterwards, some of the other participants spoke about what the Declaration meant to them. They heard about the value of John Locke’s writings, and how they influenced the founding fathers. They heard about the unfortunate fate that some of the signers met—portraying a bravery rarely seen today. The focus was not on how much the Founders’ vision has been diminished today, but one person emphasized that governments are instituted to protect (not to violate) individual rights.
A brief tour of the statues of Lafayette, Washington, Lincoln and the beautiful Union Square Drinking Fountain ended the cultural aspect of the gathering.
Nearly the entire group finished the day with a march over to the spacious America restaurant to feed their bodies as their souls had just been fed. Good food and conversation filled the giant, patriotic hall. One participant, relishing his first outing with NY Heroes, stated that the country needs more celebrations like this. With the New York Heroes Society only in its first year of operation, and with several well-received celebrations to its credit, it's certain that this man's call will not go unheard.
Copyright 2004: New York Heroes Society, Inc.