RICHFIELD, Minn. - Most Minnesotans, like other Americans, know that the Fourth of July is "Independence Day" but how deep is their understanding of the holiday?
KARE 11's Allen Costantini put three questions to patrons of the Richfield Fourth of July carnival celebration on Wednesday. Each was asked the specific event that historically prompted the observance (the signing of the Declaration of Independence), who wrote it (Thomas Jefferson), and could you quote from it?
Actually, more than a few, when pressed, recalled that it is the day Americans celebrate the signing. Roger Samson knew that and correctly identified Thomas Jefferson as the main author, although he had difficulty quoting from the document.
One woman protested that she was "horrible at history" and "I honestly do not know."
Asked who wrote the Declaration of Independence, another woman replied "Shoot! I was just watching John Adams, uh, Congress?" Even when prompted with a quote of "life, liberty and the pursuit of...." she could not finish the phrase.
All of those quizzed took the questioning in good humor, both embarrassed and amused at their own lack of knowledge about one of the country's pivotal documents.
One woman admitted "This is embarrassing. I have two college degrees."
Another told her little daughter, "Mommy has multiple degrees and does not know the answer to this question."
One man, pushing a baby stroller, was more than aware.
"I guess it is the signing of the Declaration of Independence but that actually did not happen until August 2." Many historical scholars would back him up on that premise. He correctly knew Jefferson was the author, but thought "We, the people..." was a quote. "We, the people..." is in the Preamble of the Constitution.
One of the volunteers directing traffic in the unforgiving heat thought quoted "We have the right to... freedom of speech." That, of course, is in the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
One man offered a geographical excuse. "We are from Iowa. We are from out of town." Asked if, in Iowa, they were aware of the origins of the Fourth of July, he replied, "Obviously not."
Several blamed their education. "You know, I blame this on my elementary education."
"You got past 8th grade?" Costantini asked.
"Barely," the man replied.
A young boy had the best excuse for his patriotic lapse. "I have not actually read it before."
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