Americans celebrated their country's 236th birthday on Wednesday by doing as the country's forebears did - by persevering.
Fourth of July celebrations went on amid sweltering heat throughout much of the country, especially in midwest and east coast states, with temperatures topping 100 degrees. The holiday came just days after storms that ravaged communities in those states and robbed them of power. Nearly a million homes remain without electricity.
The oppressive heat, combined with dry conditions, cancelled fireworks displays in some towns. The struggling economy also forced some towns to shrink or cancel fireworks shows.
Early in the day, at the White House, President Barack Obama chimed in to frame the day's importance, calling America's story "marvelous."
"From a string of 13 colonies to 50 states from sea to shining sea. From a fragile experiment in democracy to a beacon of freedom that still lights the world. From a society of farmers and merchants to the largest, most dynamic economy in the world," Obama said. "From a population of some 3 million -- free and slave -- to more than 300 million Americans of every color and every creed."
Elsewhere, Americans celebrated in their own way.
In Philadelphia, the city held a parade that included 5,000 people, then added a military fly-over, fireworks display and night-time concert. Mayor Michael Nutter read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
In Boston, officials planned naval ceremonies to commemorate the War of 1812. In Chicago, the city's traditional fireworks display was planned at Navy Pier, after a larger, city-sponsored event at Grant Park was cancelled by budget cuts. In Washington, plans went ahead for a night-time fireworks display at the Washington Monument.
In California, national headlines were made by the U.S.S. Iowa, the country's last battleship and one of the fastest in history. The Iowa, which served in World War II, Korea and the Cold War, docked in San Pedro, Calif., where U.S. military officials plan to convert it into a museum.
On the presidential campaign trail, both Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney marked the day with separate events. Obama held a military naturalization ceremony at the White House, while Romney interrupted a week-long family vacation in New Hampshire to participate in a small town parade.
The ceremony Obama presided over inducted 25 active-duty U.S. troops into full U.S. citizenship. Held in the White House's East Room, it was the third such ceremony for the president.
"What a perfect way to celebrate America's birthday -- the world's oldest democracy, with some of our newest citizens," Obama said. "Today, you raised your hand and have taken an oath of citizenship. And I could not be prouder to be among the first to greet you as "my fellow Americans."
In New Hampshire, Romney was joined by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who is said to be high on the list of Romney's vice-presidential candidates.
In remarks after the parade, Romney said: "My heart is full this morning. I love our flag. ... The world needs a strong America, an America with strong homes and families, an America with a strong economy. That's the America we must have and we must build."
It was Romney's only campaign appearance scheduled for this week, while Obama begins a two-day bus tour on Thursday through key cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
by RTT Staff Writer
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