July 4th at Monticello
There is no more inspirational place to celebrate the Fourth of July than Monticello, the home of the author of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1963, more than 3,000 people from every corner of the globe have taken the oath of citizenship at the annual Monticello Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. It is the oldest continuous naturalization ceremony in the United States outside of a courtroom.
In 2012, a new group of citizens, from countries around the world, was welcomed by gold-medal-winning gymnast Nadia Comãneci. The music of the Charlottesville Municipal Band and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums will add to the festive atmosphere.
Jefferson himself hoped that Americans would celebrate the Fourth of July — what he called "the great birthday of our Republic" — to "refresh our collections of [our] rights, and undiminished devotion to them." The iconic West Lawn of Monticello provides a glorious setting for a ceremony steeped in patriotic elements.
"Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country's foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual's ability to change the face of the world — it's easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, "So what if I've never designed a building before? If I want to, I will."
from Sam Waterston's remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007
It is said that we are a nation of immigrants. The list of those who have delivered the July 4th address at Monticello is a thoroughly American story. In 1995 there was Roberto Goizueta, the man who fled Cuba with nothing but an education and a job, and who rose to lead one of the best known American corporations: The Coca-Cola Company. There is the woman who fled Czechoslovakia as a girl, uncertain of where she would "fit in" to America — who became the first woman to serve as secretary of state: Madeleine Albright. Frank McCourt spoke of his return to America from Ireland at age nineteen, arriving with only the gift of the English language, a gift he has since shared with millions in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela's Ashes.
July 4th at Monticello is an emotionally powerful experience that celebrates not only "the great birthday of our Republic," but the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, the nation's birth certificate. The words that Jefferson called "an expression of the American mind" that "all men are created equal" and have a right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" changed the world and continue to reverberate today. The real meaning of the Fourth of July goes beyond fireworks and picnics, and is found in the mosaic of stories told by the nation's newest citizens as they address the crowd at Monticello.
This July 4th will mark the 237th anniversary of American independence. Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, died at Monticello on the 50th anniversary, July 4, 1826.