I recently had a great opportunity to visit the “city of brotherly love,” Rocky Balboa’s hometown and the birthplace of American independence — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was on a business trip (the same one I mentioned in my earlier post) and had a couple of hours before my flight back to Salt Lake City. So I decided to go see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Upon arriving in downtown Philly, I quickly parked and walked over to Independence Hall where I was informed that I would be unable to enter the building since entrance to the site depended on your having a free ticket, and they were out of tickets for the day. I was very disappointed, but still determined to get inside. So I found a school group that was getting ready to go inside and I latched onto them as if I were one of their chaperones. However, at the door to the building, a national park worker was checking everyone’s ticket, and alas, I was ticketless. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But just as she was about to check my ticket (and turn me away), she got distracted and turned away for a moment. I took my chance and slipped past her and into the building. YESSS! I felt a little sneaky, but justified. I had come thousands of miles and I was GOING to see that site.
And yes, I know it’s just a building. But it is very special because of what happened there both in 1776 (Declaration) and 1787 (Constitution). The tour guide told us all about the events that transpired and we got to see the places where the founding fathers actually sat while debating American indepedence. It was thrilling to think… “George Washington actually sat right there in that chair.” I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and a connection with history and the founding fathers created a nation unlike any other ever conceived of at the time.
After my “covert” visit to Independence Hall, I had the chance to see the Independence Visitor Center, the Liberty Bell, and the Constitution Center, which was the highlight of the experience. The Constitution Center is an excellent facility that memorializes the constitution of the United States with interactive displays and a fantastic live stage presentation that does some really innovative things with lighting and video projection. The presentation was so powerful that I was brought to tears at the end. The center also has a room with more than 40 lifelike bronze statues of the constitution signers. Here is a picture of Ben Franklin, who helped frame the constituion as an old man, just three years before his in 1790.
I ended my stay in Philly with a visit to the graveyard where Ben Franklin is buried. Franklin is one of my heroes and I cannot believe how much he accomplished in his life. Also buried in the same graveyard were four other signers of the Declaration of Independence, one of which was Joseph Hewes from North Carolina. You may wonder why I care about him… I represented him in the 2005 stage production of “1776” at the Hale Center Theater in Salt Lake City, so I felt a kinship with him and was pleased to be able to see his gravesite.
I feel a tremendous debt of gratitude for all those who sacrificed so much to create this wonderful nation. I believe these men were inspired of God. They laid the groundwork for the restoration of the gospel, creating an environment where religious freedom was available for the first time just a few decades before Joseph Smith re-established Christ’s church on the earth. I’m grateful to them and feel a debt of gratitude for their vision.