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Video: America throws itself a birthday party

  1. Transcript of: America throws itself a birthday party

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: properly pay a birthday tribute to a nation as young and eclectic as ours? The answer, says NBC 's Lee Cowan , just about every way imaginable.

    LEE COWAN reporting: There are more than 1300 words in the Declaration of Independence , and it seems there are just as many ways to celebrate.

    Sports Announcer: He has just eclipsed 12,000 calories.

    COWAN: Although exactly what cramming 54 hot dogs down your throat has to do with independence is a bit puzzling. And who would've thought that spitting a cherry pit some 50 feet would be a good way to honor one of the most famous documents in the world? But, as traditions go, they're beloved, just like all the others.

    Unidentified Man: Happy Fourth!

    COWAN: From parades to backyard barbecues, patriotism is having a field day , and our second president would have loved every second. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail long ago that he hoped today would be honored "with guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other." He certainly got his wish, and more. It's a uniquely American holiday , like Thanksgiving ; and instead of counting our blessings, we count our freedoms and those who fight for them. Soldiers' homecomings this weekend were particularly poignant, sacrifices honored and remembered. And there were reminders everywhere that the promise of this country still draws those from beyond our borders, to take the oath of citizenship. Deuce Lutui , here from Tonga , was already living the American dream . He's a star in the NFL , plays for the Arizona Cardinals , but the dream was incomplete without his US citizenship .

    Mr. DEUCE LUTUI: I'm here to wear this American flag proudly and become an American.

    COWAN: Becoming American is what independence was all about, a proud experiment started 234 years ago that continues to this day. So whether it's gorging on hot dogs , marching in parades or just sporting red, white and blue, do what John Adams suggested and honor independence the best way you know how. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles .

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: That's NBC NIGHTLY NEWS for this Sunday. Happy Fourth , everybody. Don't miss the fireworks on the "Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular " tonight at 9, 8 Central here on NBC . Brian Williams will be here tomorrow. I'm Lester Holt reporting from New York . For all of us here at NBC News , good night.

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