What Are You Getting America for her 236th Birthday?

Mark Sagor


My father Charles (center) with his two brothers Joseph & Irving circa 1942

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting our country a gift on her birthday this year. But what can I give a country that already has so much? What can I give that has value and significance? When I was about 5 years old,  I remember my father telling me that the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who went on to become presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both died on July 4, 1826, the nation’s 50th birthday. It’s one of those kid things that you never forget and never quite understand either. It’s kind of like one of my wife’s “kid beliefs” which was that everybody died on their birthday. Except that it’s true. These old friends really did die on this same special day.

I’m thinking that one thing I can give to a country that has given so much to me, and my family of immigrants, is to study the Declaration of Independence for at least one hour on July 4th. In that hour I will seek guidance and try to understand what our founding fathers’ aspirations were for our country and I will meditate upon the gap that exists between those ideals and my personal behavior. And I will pledge my allegiance to strive to do better and to align myself more closely with the beautiful poetry and ideals and wisdom of this document which has not lost any of its power to inspire the human imagination.

I know. It’s not that great a gift. It’s a small thing. It almost makes me ashamed to offer so little when I know that so many service men and women are giving so much. Despite this reservation, I will give my small gift on July 4th and not over think it to the point where I convince myself that giving nothing is a better option.

I’d love to hear about your gift ideas. Please leave a comment.