This blog was originally written for the PetalumaOnline community website under the heading: Our Cyberspace for July 2005. (It is just as relevant this year, as that year.)

“It’s the 4th of July weekend and I’ve been searching my brain for an appropriate theme. My mind keeps coming back to how a few folks in Petaluma will celebrate the significance of the events of this day in 1776, and its relationship to our 21st Century world of telecommunications and computer technology. “What’s the big deal,” you say. “Just watch the fireworks!”

On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., a small group of adults and children will gather on the front steps of the Petaluma Historical Museum and Library to sing “America the Beautiful” and to hear President Kennedy’s 1963 Bell Ringing Proclamation. Perhaps it will be the free lemonade and cookies that will draw the kids. “So what? What’s the big deal?”

The “big deal” is this. Although no bells were rung on July 4th in 1776, they were rung on July 8th in order to summon the citizenry for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, in Philadelphia. “OK, then what happened on the 4th?” you ask. The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on the morning of a bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day. John Dunlap prints the Declaration of Independence.

The Delegates did not begin to sign the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence until August 2nd. What did they sign over 200 years ago? What did they pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors to support? They signed a document whose preamble begins with the words, 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.

In those days, it could take weeks and months for news and information to be circulated and communicated throughout the 13 colonies. There weren’t any cell phones, faxes, radios or TV sets. Neither the Pony Express, or railroads, or the telegraph had been created. The words that capture the ideas that Americans will celebrate on July 4th are just as significant in 2005 as they were 229 years ago in 1776. Today, however, the speed with which those words can be communicated has changed dramatically. Modern technology enables instant communication with anyone, anywhere on Earth.

Promoting greater use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all sectors of towns, villages, and cities will be vital in the 21st Century if citizens are to sustain the essence of democratic ideals and strengthen our ability to pursue our unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
That’s the “big deal!”