The 4th of July is all about saying “Happy Birthday, America!” We do this by getting together with family and friends, sharing a meal, enjoying the day off and end by watching fireworks. If you tune into something on the TV you can watch the Boston Pops or the show from the Capitol. So what does “Happy Birthday America” really mean? If you had an opportunity to watch the movie, The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, you had the opportunity to see a “comedy” of sorts in which the President is single and falls for a lobbyist. Toward the end of the movie, the President decides to stand up to his critic, a character played by Richard Dreyfus who would like to be President himself. There are two lines in this portion of the movie that continue to resonate with be. Although this is not a direct quote, here they are. The first goes something like this—to be an American is advanced citizenship. The second—I have been so busy trying to keep my job I forgot to do my job.
Being an American is advanced citizenship. It’s not easy to be informed, to talk with others to be sure that you have a 360° point of view, to not get hung up listening to the people who spin the news interpreting what you just heard with your own two ears. Being a citizen of this great country means understanding that every single American needs to have the opportunity to express his or her point of view and to be heard. But more than just the opportunity to speak, there must be equity and access to the American promise of liberty and freedom, a renewal of the social contract. C4K firmly believes in this concept and believes that the road to achieving social justice (this whole notion of equity and access for everyone) can be accomplished through social change; and we believe that after-school is an instrument of the very social change we need as a country to ensure justice for all of our citizens. We are committed to working with after-school programs and school day programs to make space for this change. The focus of the C4K website is to provide staff development and training to ensure that the army of people working in after-school arena are uniquely positioned to do exactly this.
The second quote about keeping and doing the job reminds me how important it is to not only to work daily to ensure that after-school staff is well trained and prepared, but to keep in touch with the higher calling of this work, the importance of providing equity and access to every child that lives within our borders.
So, on this July 4th I echo the words of the Lee Greenwood song, Proud to Be An American—
I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA”
Happy Birthday, America!
A very usual celebration…
So what can youth do to celebrate America’s birthday. Short of a “Traditional 4th” with sack races, watermelon, and hot dogs, why not have kids make a Happy Birthday wind sock. If you being with a piece of white construction paper, 12” x 18” and some colored pencils our marking pens, they only other things you will need are a piece of yarn, some crepe paper streamers, and a stapler. Begin by having the students divide the 12” x 18” paper into a patchwork. In each of the squares in the patchwork, have young people capture something of America (fireworks, flags, Washington Monument, the Capitol Dome, the Statue of Liberty, a family, a picnic—including ants, a ballot box, and so on). When the patchwork is complete, have student add the crepe paper streamers (use stapler or glue) and then create the windsock and top off with the piece of yarn to hang the sock from.