With pomp and protest, ceremony and song, Morristown celebrates the Fourth of July

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) calls for unity, July 4, 2019, Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Hundreds flocked to George Washington’s old stomping grounds, the Morristown Green, on Thursday to celebrate a document that continues to inspire, provoke and challenge Americans and the world.

Two hundred and forty-three years after its signing, the Declaration of Independence “is both a reminder what we have achieved and a challenge to build a better future for the generations of Americans to come,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.), in her first Fourth of July address in Morristown, “the heart of the American Revolution and the heart of our democracy.”

The Congresswoman spoke after a fiery reading of the Declaration by Morristown National Historical Park Ranger Tom Winslow, who was clad in 18th-century garb.

HUZZAH! Tom Winslow and Eric Olsen of the Park Service, July 4, 2019, Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We are bound to each other as Americans. We honor individualism and creativity. But we must remember that lifting each other up is critical to our success as a whole. These principles were radical for their time,” Sherrill said.

The Declaration is a “signpost for all who yearn for liberty,” a reminder that “our leaders are responsible for securing the rights and happiness of the people,” and a “full call for unity among our citizens,” she said.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover on images for captions:

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Mayor Tim Dougherty said George Washington expressed concerns about foreign meddling, extreme debt and intense partisanship.

“You put all three of those together and what have you got? What’s going on today,” Dougherty said.

“They could see that so long ago, that this is something we must be careful about with our great democracy,” he said. “The only thing I can say… is just vote when it comes time to vote.”

I WANT ICE CREAM! July 4, 2019, Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The crowd was entertained by the Loose Canons vocal ensemble, and by Continental Army re-enactors who fired muskets, in presentation organized by the Morris County Tourism Bureau and the national park.

Later, organ virtuoso Joshua Stafford gave a rousing performance of patriotic songs on the 1930 Skinner organ at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Organist Josh Stafford of St. Peter’s plays patriotic tunes, with page turning help from Kevin Kelly, July 4, 2019, Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Differences of opinion forged this country–Colonials chafed at British rules. Sherrill noted how the Founding Fathers had difficulty agreeing on the Declaration; John Adams compared the process to “getting 13 clocks to strike in the same instance.”

Citizens exercised their free speech rights on Thursday, too.

Activist Stacey Gregg and Trump supporter John Gunia exchange views, July 4, 2019, Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

For the second straight year, Rockaway Township resident Stacey Gregg unfurled an upside-down U.S. flag, a “symbol of distress,” she said. Affiliated with MoveOn.org, she protested the Trump administration’s “inhumane” conditions for migrants in detention centers at the U.S. border.

“We take better care of our chickens in this country,” Gregg said. “We have free-range chickens.”

John Gunia of Mt. Olive differed. He accused Democrats of wanting open borders and challenged Gregg to house undocumented immigrants seeking entry. He said he gladly will vote for President Trump again.

“I think the Trump economy is incredible. Deregulation is incredible. He standing up to dictators instead of coddling them,” said Gunia.



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