As the the Summer Solstice coincided with a full moon for the first time in 49 years, my daughter, grandsons and I felt cosmic love as we explored Philadelphia in June. The weather was perfect. The places we saw reverberated patriotic pride. Philadelphia was the US Capitol 1790-1800. It is the first and only World Heritage City in the United States and the city of the boys’ heroes—William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. We hopped on a Big Bus that took us all around the city. “Look,” said the guide, “that’s William Penn atop City Hall.” He was hard to see, but we knew him from the Quaker Oats box.
Thomas, 5, was excited to find, right next-door to our hotel, the graveyard where Franklin and six other Founding Fathers were buried. He quickly memorized their birth and death dates and quizzed us on them later. Stephen, 8, had already visited Washington and Jefferson’s homes in Virginia. He was eager to see Independence Hall where Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence and Washington signed the Constitution. Standing in that sacred place, we felt humbled.
The Franklin Institute was a big hit, captivating us for four hours. We walked to the Liberty Bell, the Mint (instituted in Philadelphia by my new hero, Alexander Hamilton), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Stephen and Thomas posed like Rocky Balboa raising fists to the sky. When the others declared a rest break, I spent an hour in the Museum, where I discovered that Thomas Eakins and three generations of sculptors named Alexander Calder were Philadelphians. I also got to see a model of that William Penn statue we had seen from a distance atop City Hall.
The “Headed to the White House” exhibit at the Constitution Center helped my grandsons imagine when they would first get to vote in a Presidential Election and when they would be eligible to run for President. Stephen will be able to vote in 2028 and run by 2044. But Thomas will have to wait an extra four years! Then each got to try out the President’s chair.
Stephen and I particularly enjoyed the interactive exhibit with the signers of the Constitution at the Constitution Center. Forty-two life-size, historically-researched statues were set up for visitors to meet.
Steve and I will share this year’s Independence Day in Florida with our history-loving grandsons, while their parents visit Islamorada. We will read the Declaration of Independence and recite the names of the 58 signers. I’m sure that Thomas will tell us when many of them were born and when they died. I am grateful to all of them, as well as the 40 signers of the Constitution. I would especially like to thank Alexander Hamilton, for getting our nation off to an auspicious start. As he wrote in “A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress,” December 22, 1774:
The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.
Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 1, p. 122