The Declaration: What Does Independence Mean To You?

We often celebrate Independence Day with backyard barbecues and fireworks, forgetting the document that started this whole country: the Declaration of Independence.

For the past 20 years Morning Edition has asked NPR hosts and reporters to read the document on the Fourth, as a reminder of our country's history. This year, we decided to ask visitors at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to give it a try.

After our readers familiarized themselves with the Declaration, we asked what independence meant to them. Many started with broad statements, but then gradually talked about freedoms that were the most important to them.

Declaration Of Independence Readers (In Order Of Appearance)

  • Row 1: Stewart Merriam, Logan, Utah; Darwin Danks, Watertown, N.Y.; Emaan Khan, Austin, Texas. Row 2: Mildred Cobbinah, Kansas City, Mo.; Jean Hebert, Chippewa Falls, Wis.; Ted Cai of Houston.
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    Row 1: Stewart Merriam, Logan, Utah; Darwin Danks, Watertown, N.Y.; Emaan Khan, Austin, Texas. Row 2: Mildred Cobbinah, Kansas City, Mo.; Jean Hebert, Chippewa Falls, Wis.; Ted Cai of Houston.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR
  • Row 1: Maryam Saif, Austin, Texas; Michael Dubberly, Savannah, Ga.; Nadine Pourier-Blumenshine, Fresno, Calif. Row 2: Timothy Jon Eaton, Kingsport, Tenn.; Kara Milton, Greensboro, N.C.; Thomas Horsley, Boston.
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    Row 1: Maryam Saif, Austin, Texas; Michael Dubberly, Savannah, Ga.; Nadine Pourier-Blumenshine, Fresno, Calif. Row 2: Timothy Jon Eaton, Kingsport, Tenn.; Kara Milton, Greensboro, N.C.; Thomas Horsley, Boston.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR
  • Row 1: Dixie Blumenshine, Fresno, Calif.; Cameron Milton, Greensboro, N.C.; James O'Halloran, Scotland, U.K. Row 2: Allyssa Warner, Hyrum, Utah; Dallam Masterson, Houston; Melinda Burke, Warner Robins, Ga.
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    Row 1: Dixie Blumenshine, Fresno, Calif.; Cameron Milton, Greensboro, N.C.; James O'Halloran, Scotland, U.K. Row 2: Allyssa Warner, Hyrum, Utah; Dallam Masterson, Houston; Melinda Burke, Warner Robins, Ga.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR
  • Row 1: Kevin Yarn, Durham, N.C.; Jeanne Greenwald, Kansas City, Mo.; Steven Lee, New York. Row 2: Marcia Hayes, Marshfield, Mass.; John McAvoy, Taylorville, Ill.; Isabel Gomez-Rengifo, Cali, Colombia.
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    Row 1: Kevin Yarn, Durham, N.C.; Jeanne Greenwald, Kansas City, Mo.; Steven Lee, New York. Row 2: Marcia Hayes, Marshfield, Mass.; John McAvoy, Taylorville, Ill.; Isabel Gomez-Rengifo, Cali, Colombia.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR
  • Row 1: Rocco DiCicco, Fresno, Calif.; Nelsy Rodriguez, Boyaca, Colombia; Gary Combs, Kingsport, Tenn. Row 2: Susan Bennett Eaton, Gray, Tenn.; Clint Morgan, Campwood, Texas; Kimberley Stewart, Menlo Park, Calif.
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    Row 1: Rocco DiCicco, Fresno, Calif.; Nelsy Rodriguez, Boyaca, Colombia; Gary Combs, Kingsport, Tenn. Row 2: Susan Bennett Eaton, Gray, Tenn.; Clint Morgan, Campwood, Texas; Kimberley Stewart, Menlo Park, Calif.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR
  • Corey Armstrong, Louisville, Ky.; Charmaine Martin, Trinidad and Tobago; Joseph Smith, Alexandria, Va.
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    Corey Armstrong, Louisville, Ky.; Charmaine Martin, Trinidad and Tobago; Joseph Smith, Alexandria, Va.
    Hayley Bartels, Rebecca Sell, Erica Yoon/NPR

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