Declaration of Independence reading celebrates anniversary of country’s founding

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For many people who visited the historic James School on Sunday, hearing the Declaration of Independence spoken aloud was like traveling back in time and realizing the struggles that led to the founding of the United States.

The James School board hosted their sixth annual reading of the Declaration. After the raising of the American flag, John Herweh, talent manager at MMG Insurance Company, served as this year’s reader.

With his audience of 15 people hanging onto every word, Herweh read the famous document, which detailed the Founding Fathers’ reasons for breaking ties with Great Britain. 

“‘He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only,'” said Herweh, as he read a passage that condemned actions from Great Britain against the original colonies.

After the reading Herweh, a veteran of the Army Reserves, said that he felt “honored and privileged” to serve as the Declaration reader. He noted the document’s importance in teaching people about the struggles that the colonies’ people faced during America’s founding.

“You can feel how this document forged the way for them and set the wheels of our democracy in motion,” Herweh said.

Visitors to the James School came from near and far to celebrate the nation’s independence. Ann Poitras of Van Buren noted that hearing the Declaration made her even prouder of her husband, son and daughter-in-laws’ years of service in various military branches. 

“It’s important that we remember this history,” Poitras said.

The event also served as a showcase for the James School, which was a one-room schoolhouse for local children served local children from 1917 to 1948. A group of community volunteers restored the school and moved the foundation to its current location on Niles Road in the 1980s.

Today, the James School holds open houses every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m., offers tours by appointment and serves as a location for special events such as weddings and reunions.

Presque Isle resident Patty McKay said that she remembers attending church gatherings at the James School when she was a child. A retired English teacher and editor, McKay now thinks that the James School is the ideal spot for teaching community members about the Declaration.

“I got a little teary eyed during the flag raising. It always makes me think about the freedom we have,” McKay said. “Hearing the Declaration makes me think of the sacrifices that were made so we could have freedom today.”

James School board president Mike Gudreau said that he most enjoys hearing the Declaration spoken by someone different every year.

“It brings together what America is all about: different people bringing their own voices and meaning, which is how it should be,” Gudreau said.