Declaration’s Words Transport Ceremony Back in Time

July 5, 2023
The annual Fourth of July reading of the entire Declaration of Independence took place late Tuesday morning at Veterans Memorial Park. Courtesy Image.

Jon “O.C.” O’Connor likes to imagine the mindset of those who lived during the American Revolution – particularly the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

“We have to think about what it was like then,” O’Connor said as he introduced the annual Fourth of July reading of the entire declaration late Tuesday morning at Veterans Memorial Park.

This is the fifth Independence Day reading organized by O’Connor, following a tradition carried out by former Bedford Minutemen Capt. John Filios, who died in 2018 at the age of 101. 

A small crowd gathered to hear four readers take turns to read through the Declaration of Independence. Courtesy Image

O’Connor explained that “in an age when information is thrown at us a hundred ways, we are trying to get to the real meaning of why the Founding Fathers wrote this declaration.”

Addressing about 30 people, O’Connor, a former commander of American Legion Post 221, said the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence personified courage. And “you can’t keep this republic without being courageous.”

The signers knew they would be considered traitors by the British authorities, he said, noting that “only 30 percent of colonists were part of the inspiration and action to remove us from the tyranny of King George III.” 

Four readers, one following the other, took about 13 minutes to read the Declaration of Independence, which features more than 1,300 words.

The Patriot was the backdrop of the annual reading on Tuesday. Courtesy Image

Readers stood in front of The Patriot, the 23-year-old bronze sculpture of a Minuteman carrying the Bedford Flag in battle. In front of the microphone, 13 miniature flags, one for each colony, defined a pathway. 

The Rev. Michael Charchaflian, former chaplain of the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction in Billerica, read the first section. Father Charchaflian, who also was once chaplain to Bedford’s Post 221 American Legion Riders, also offered the invocation and benediction.

Reading the second shift was Sandra Kee Davis, a U.S. Navy veteran and recently-elected commander of the American Legion, Department of Massachusetts. She was followed by Laurel Holland of Bedford, director of volunteer services at the VA Medical Center on Springs Road – “where our national treasure is,” O’Connor said.

Resident Michael O’Shaughnessy wrapped up the declaration. O’Connor said that after a couple of years of his reading the entire document solo, O’Shaughnessy approached him and offered to share the load.

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