Why is today, July 4, marked as our “Independence Day”? The Declaration of Independence was not “signed” on that day, and the actual decision for independence had been made two days earlier. But what did happen on July 4, 1776 was that the Declaration was first publicly read aloud, to a group of onlookers outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was the reading of the Declaration that was a significant act, and should remain so today, 237 years later.

Here are two different readings of the complete Declaration, from beginning to end, that I found on YouTube. The first is hosted by Morgan Freeman, and features several actors taking turns reading portions of the Declaration in the very room where it was adopted. The readers include Kevin Spacey, Kathy Bates, Michael Douglas, Winona Ryder and Benecio del Toro. Judging by how they look I’d say this dates from the early 2000s. I’m somewhat disconcerted by the presence of Mel Gibson, but we’ll let that slide for the moment!

The second is a reading by none other than John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. This reading was evidently done for a radio station in 1957, four years before he became President. There are other versions of this video around, most with “dramatic” music added or footage inserted, but I kind of like this raw audio-only version. It’s from a Tea Party channel unfortunately, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the words or the interest of having JFK read them.

This will be the only post on the blog today. Enjoy the holiday and enjoy our continued freedom!