The DSDI Board of Governors met Friday, July 3, 2015 at the Omni Hotel in Philadelphia with a full agenda of DSDI business to consider. Afterwards, many members and their families gathered at the hotel for an iconic Philadelphia cheese steak buffet; others met at nearby eating establishments. Later that night, an open patriotic music concert in front of Independence Hall attracted a large enthusiastic crowd.
Promptly at 8 a.m. on July 4th, the Bell Tappers and their parents and grandparents assembled at the Omni Hotel to walk to the Liberty Bell for tapping practice under the direction of Don Ward, Sr. Joining them as tappers were two young brother and sister immigrants from the Philippines who later that afternoon would be sworn in as new United States citizens.
While our group was making its way through the security checkpoint at the Liberty Bell Center, I decided to get a quick peek at the bell. I was greeted with an unusual scene: three security dogs and their handlers posing for a picture. It actually made me smile to know that this hard-working trio wanted to remember this day for man and canine alike. Kudos to those who protect us. After the practice session, the tappers and their families were invited to a brunch back at the Omni Hotel, which concluded with each tapper receiving a special Liberty Bell pin to remember this day.
As the brunch ended, participants in the Philadelphia July 4th parade were forming up outside the hotel. What an incredibly colorful, diverse group of parade floats and marchers. Something for everyone, including Founding Father re-enactors, ethnic dance groups, a four-Gold Medal Olympic athlete, military veteran groups, beauty queens, etc. The central theme was a show of patriotism for the greatest country on Earth, Philadelphia style. The parade built even greater anticipation of the Liberty Bell tapping ceremony.
At 1 p.m., while our young tappers and their families entered the Liberty Bell Center en masse, the public waiting in line looked on inquisitively. When word circulated that these young people entering were actual descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, one could sense a uniform response of approval from the onlooking public. Observing the citizenship swearing-in ceremony of the two young immigrants is something our tappers will cherish forever.
Afterwards, Don Ward, Sr. led his charges to the Liberty Bell. The head of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution made opening remarks, followed by those from Cynthia MacLeod, Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. I went last and had just enough time to remind the audience that the 10 Bell Tappers included eight who were descended from, arguably, this country’s first citizens as well as two who were this country’s newest citizens. At the magic hour of 2 p.m., it was remarkable to watch the gleam in Don Ward’s eyes, as his white-gloved tappers followed his directions precisely in softly striking the bell in unison, 13 times. A very proud group of tappers and their parents and grandparents proceeded back to the hotel.
Those wanting to change into black-tie for the Annual Congress had just enough time to do so. At the meeting in the Long Room at Independence Hall, the Society Prayer was read by 1st VP-General, Hope Middleton Wood, and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Past President-General, John C. Glynn, Jr. I asked all first-timers to our Annual Congress to stand and be recognized followed by introductions of the members of the Board of Governors. Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod received special recognition for her longtime support.
Business was conducted, which concluded with a “changing of the guard.” Making final remarks as President-General was harder to do than I thought, especially when thanking my wife for her encouragement and remembering my dear departed mother who signed me up for DSDI membership. Passing the baton to Hope Middleton Wood was easy because she is passionately devoted to maintaining DSDI’s mission. For the third time and hopefully not the last, I had the privilege and honor to read the Declaration of Independence in the Long Room. Stephanie Nelson and Cari Haimes conducted the meeting-ending Roll Call.
The Saturday night banquet at the Omni Hotel was a time to relax and reflect. John C. Glynn, Jr. gave a spirited talk on what researching your ancestors may reveal. Grace Staller and Don Ward, Sr. received engraved Jefferson Cups for their continual roles in arranging the Bell Tapping Ceremony and planning the Annual Congress in Philadelphia. If you have not already, make a point to attend a future July 4th Annual Congress in Philadelphia.
Lawrence “Laurie” M. Croft