Every year for about 30 years, Tom Noel, John Stewart, and I look forward to being invited to a wonderful annual civic event unique in the city and special to our civic memory. This year was no different from all others. We three were asked to volunteer to lead a live reading of the Declaration of Independence in the park. This year things were different.
In years past at the park, the prophetic words of Marshall McLuhan held sway as they did on Friday, July 2nd, just before the Glendale fireworks. Simply put, McLuhan surmised that if something is important enough in life, the medium of a microphone would be included in the reading. At 6 PM we three were invited to lead the people gathered for the only public reading of the Declaration, a document which helped break the bonds that tied us to King George III and Great Britain, her mean and selfish self. In “the medium is the message.” In years past, the park always supplied a microphone available from the Denver Municipal Band. Alas, the band did not play this year. No mic.
This year we slowly trudged past the perky rock band with microphones and speakers, playing for hundreds of dusty citizens gathered at the park’s fundraiser. Someone from the park directed us to the east side of the old farmhouse, a block or two away from the siren’s call of easy listening music. I felt like the unwanted sleepy uncles in Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Did these quirky uncles actually show up again with copies of the Declaration to be read out loud at our annual event? Who are they? What century do they live in? Where did they get those funny mourning coats? Can’t we just let them sleep off their dinners? Do we really have to listen to all the war stories?
“Will the citizens have a microphone and speakers to help read the Declaration this year?” I asked someone who looked in charge from the park. The answer back gave us the park’s medium and message, “the microphone was reserved for the music this year. We can read the Declaration as they did in 1776, with naturally roused and raised voices.” The music was more important than the Declaration’s reading. No, we can’t interrupt the music for the 15 minute reading of Jefferson’s masterful words encouraging our separation. The medium was the message. Heaven help us, we don’t want people to leave. Isn’t it a political document? Boring!
And let us be thankful to Ed Feulner, Regis College class of 1963, from the Heritage Foundation for sending copies of the Declaration. And special thanks to Ryan Pappas of Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s Office for actually delivering copies of the Declaration and Constitution to the Four Mile House for this year’s reading. Good to see such bi-partisan cooperation working together for the Republic. If we can keep it.
Despite this major oversight by the overseers at Four Mile House, the few people gathered near food stall tables seemed pleased to be asked to join in on the readings. A group of students from Bradley School eagerly read with unfeigned outrage and conviction about the British forcing the colonists to house British soldiers in their homes. Why didn’t we know about that? Another read of the King sending “hither a multitude of new officers to eat us out of our store.” Shame on the King. Historic shouts of “Down with King George. Up with the Republic,” echoed in the warm summer air off the Four Mile House farmhouse near historic Cherry Creek. Thanks to John Stewart and Bernice Bertolli, administrative assistant to Orthodox Archbishop Alexander, for recruiting students and others to abandon their fear of public speaking and lead the citizens in the all too short reading. No trial by jury? Down with King George.
We know the Declaration, nudged by Jefferson, is not a perfect document. It is, as MLK said of it, a promise to economic freedom and it comes up short on the bank account side. My interpretation of his words. It’s something we have to work at every day, like a more perfect union. Like Jesuits with AMDG, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.” Google it.
But at the annual reading at Four Mile, citizens had a brief chance to read and rededicate themselves to the lofty principles of all people being created equal and having certain unalienable rights from their creator, not from government. I hope people still believe these lofty goals. Do you think they still do?
Finally, one does not have to read the Declaration only on July 4th. Read the document any and every day of the year. Try it. It makes you feel better as we work toward a more perfect union.
The Honorable Dennis Gallagher is a former city auditor, city councilman, state senator and state representative. He’ll be sharing thoughts and stories from North Denver’s past and future in his reoccuring column in The Denver North Star.