Freedom reigns at Sacramento’s bicentennial celebrations

July 5, 1976: Sacramentans celebrated the 200th birthday of the republic in a way that would make Jefferson and Hancock and Hamilton and Henry have a proud sigh in their lace-edged waistcoats and say: “We told you so.”

They celebrated by not agreeing.

They celebrated by being shamelessly patriotic, crying tears of joy as a 50-gun salute burst through the hot morning sky.

What Sacramentans did yesterday was acknowledge freedom. They basked in it, yearned for it, looked back on it and looked ahead to it.

From Discovery Park to the quiet halls of a nursing home, from the floor of the governor’s office at the Capitol to the benches at the bocce ball courts in East Sacramento.

The day began at 11 a.m. with a fitting American symphony, the ringing of church bells and the thundering blasts of six howitzers, booming 50 straight times to salute each and every state.

Then a young man stepped to the microphone at Discovery Park to deliver a keynote address to the citizens of the town John Sutter settled 63 years after the union was formed.

Standing at the banks of the American River, David Butler told the crowd he was puzzled that a young man of 20 should be asked to kick off the city’s bicentennial party.

“But then I realized,” said Butler, a prize-winning Boy Scout orator, “that the next 100 years belong to my generation and those after. We should look not so much at the past today, but at the future and what we’re going to do with it.”

Nancy Skelton