"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…"
I offer these familiar words from our country’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, to say enthusiastically, "Happy 234th birthday to U.S."
As we celebrate today with barbecues, waving flags and fireworks, perhaps we should also review our nation’s history, so that we and our children and the neighbors and their kids can remember where we came from and why we celebrate every July 4th.
I say this because Friday I learned that a recent poll, conducted by the nonprofit Marist Institute for Public Opinion, found that 26 percent of those surveyed did NOT know that the U.S. achieved its independence from Great Britain.
Twenty percent, nationwide, said they weren’t sure who we fought for our independence; 6 percent named different countries including France, China, Japan, Mexico and Spain.
Those surveyed in the Northeast rated highest (84 percent knew we fought Great Britain for our independence).
Those surveyed in the West came in second, with 75 percent knowing the Revolutionary War was fought between the colonies and Great Britain. Still, 18 percent said they were unsure, and seven percent named a country other than Great Britain.
The Midwest had 74 percent who knew (21 percent said they were unsure).
The South had 68 percent who knew (26 percent said they weren’t sure, and six percent named another country).
I don’t know about you, but I find these numbers shocking. Equally shocking: the ignorance is widespread across the generations.
Among 18-29 year olds, 33 percent were unsure; 60 percent knew.
Among 30 to 44 year olds, 15 percent were unsure; 75 percent knew.
Among 45 to 59 year olds 17 percent were unsure; 79 percent knew.
Among those 60 and older, 19 percent were unsure; 76 percent knew.
Yes, the young are the most ignorant, with more than one in three young people being unsure. But those over 60 have absolutely nothing to brag about. Nearly one in five of them was unsure.
What is the cause of such widespread and shameful ignorance?
And what can we do about it on an individual as well as societal basis?