Rath Park’s gazebo in Franklin Square was enveloped by American flags and banners as residents gathered for a public reading of the Declaration of Independence on June 26. The event was organized by the Franklin Square Historical Society and State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages’s office.
“It’s so important that you actually hear the words of the Declaration of Independence,” Solages said. “It’s one thing to learn it in school or hear it a long time ago, but every year we should be reminded that our forefathers had the intention of saying that this is a free country.”
Solages spoke about the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. For people to recover from the events of the past 15 months, Solages said, Long Islanders need to unify on the same level as the founders who signed the Declaration of Independence.
“On the ground, I saw a lot of pain,” Solages said. “I saw a lot of people suffering, but I also saw a lot of good. I saw people putting the community before themselves. It’s all about making sure that we unite as one.”
Community members who took part in the reading of the nearly 250-year-old document expressed reverence for the legacy and meaning of the Declaration of Independence.
U.S. Army veteran and Franklin Square native Len Scarola said that the nation’s founding document represented American culture and heritage. The ceremonial reading of the document, he added, was important to a community grieving those who died during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Things like this are important for the community, especially in times like this after the year we’ve had,” Scarola said. “All the people that we’ve lost, all our loved ones, it brings recognition. Honoring everyone that we’ve lost and everyone that’s served, that’s what we’re all about.”
Others said people need to preserve the memory of the Declaration of Independence and the efforts of the founding generation. “This event keeps the traditions of our country visible, especially for the younger children,” said Adrienne McKenna, the Franklin Square Civic Association’s correspondence secretary.
“What they did for our country, going blindly into forming our new country,” McKenna said, “I think they did a really remarkable job since we’re still here all these years later with our laws and our Constitution and all the things that they fought for.”
Solages reflected on the cornerstone of the political system handed down by the founders who signed the Declaration of Independence: their sense of democratic, participatory government, and how important this remains today. She urged local residents to take part in local government in various capacities, such as by running for office or working for elected officials.
“If you’re not happy with government, please approach your elected officials,” Solages said. “Just participate in government, because that’s what our forefathers wanted.”
Solages reiterated the need for unity amid the pandemic and emphasized that citizen involvement is necessary in order for the United States to keep improving. “They wanted us to be united as one,” Solages said of the founders. “We always need to remember that this is the land of the free and home of the brave. Our country initially wasn’t perfect, but we’ve always strived and worked together to make sure we get better.”