University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger

South Bend, July 4, 1976

The Bicentennial: Fourth of July, 1976

It was a gigantic birthday party. Among the highlights of the day: President Gerald Ford spoke to the national wagon train at Valley Forge*; then he addressed a special audience at Independence Hall in Philadelphia; at 2 p.m. he struck the bell on the Carrier Forrestal in New York Harbor whereby he started the bell ringing throughout the nation. The most spectacular sight was the parade of sailing vessels up the Hudson River from maritime nations all over the world. The largest fireworks ever were displayed in the evening and the giant birthday cake at Fort McHenry in Baltimore added to the festive spirit. **

It was a remarkably harmonious 4th of July. America was at peace and at ease and everyone enjoyed the celebrations from the Jazz Festival in New Orleans to the rodeo in Flagstaff, Arizona. After two hundred years, the entire world celebrated America’s birthday. There were observations in Berlin, Paris, Jerusalem, Leningrad and Warsaw, just to mention a few. It has been a great day and a magnificent spectacle altogether.

Although born by an act of rebellion, the idea of America has grown more by evolution than revolution during the past two hundred years, and it is still evolving. The foundations of American democracy have stood the test of time and will continue to do so in the future.

Now as the yearlong celebrations are over, it is time again to store away the wigs, bonnets, buckles, drums and fifes until the Tricentennial comes around. How will America look in a hundred years from now?

*[That was the horse- and oxen-drawn wagon train accompanied by settlers dressed in their old costumes, how they had conquered the American West in the first half of the 19th century. The national wagon train was set in motion months ago in California. It moved slowly eastward until it reached its destination in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Valley Forge, located west of Philadelphia, was the camp where George Washington and his troops had survived under difficult circumstances the winter of 1777-78.]

**[Toward the end of the War of 1812-14 Fort McHenry, which protected the entry to the Harbor of Baltimore, held out against the attack of the British fleet. When the poet Francis Scott Key saw the American flag still waving on the Fort at early dawn, he wrote the lyric of “Star-Spangled Banner,” which finally in 1931 was adopted by the U.S. Congress as the National anthem of the United States.]

Addendum to the Bicentennial

The Bicentennial was the 200 year celebration of signing the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The Declaration unleashed irrevocably the War of Independence. The introductory sentence to the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence – “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” - has become the fundamental principle for American political and judicial thinking. In a study to the Bicentennial, I have examined the foreign response to the American Declaration of Independence. For that purpose, I have carried out an inquiry with a number of European National and University Libraries in order to ascertain how widespread the Declaration had been received. Although the news of the rebellion of the British colonies in North America had spread like wildfire throughout Europe, it took a long time for the Declaration to cross the Atlantic. Except for London and Paris, the Declaration remained mostly unknown until late in the 19th century. It seems that most libraries in Europe received a copy of the Declaration of Independence only after 1945. Had the original 13 colonies not succeeded in gaining independence, the Declaration of Independence would have without a doubt been forgotten.

[See Klaus Lanzinger, “The Foreign Response to the Declaration of Independence,” in Americana-Austriaca, vol.4 (Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1978, pp. 40-54.]

South Bend, July 15, 1976

The Democratic National Convention

Last night the Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden in New York nominated Jimmy Carter by acclamation as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Governor Jerry Brown of California released his 73 delegates for Carter. Following the same example, Morris Udall released his 348 delegate votes. Today Carter proposed Senator Walter Mondale from Minnesota as his running mate for the office of Vice President. The proposal was accepted without opposition to speak of.


[At the Republican National Convention in Kansas City on August 19, Gerald Ford was nominated with a narrow majority before Ronald Reagan as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. Ford chose Senator Robert Dole from Kansas as his running mate for the office of Vice President. Thus, Carter-Mondale and Ford-Dole confronted each other at the presidential election in November.]

South Bend, July 20, 1976

The Mars Landing

With the soft landing of the American probe Viking I on the planet Mars further progress has been made in the exploration of space. The pictures transmitted back to Earth from a 200 million miles distance are stunningly clear. One has the impression as if they were taken on any boulder somewhere on Earth. The surface of Mars is much more similar to Earth than that of the Moon. The thin carbon dioxide atmosphere creates a light-blue horizon, changing to yellow and red. It is assumed that under the icy cap on the North Pole are large quantities of water frozen in. This could be the prerequisite that signs of life will be found on Mars.

The pictures from Mars let us forget the year long journey of the Viking probe through space. Remarkable are the planning and programming of this enterprise by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. No less surprising is the fact that all the equipment and instruments are functioning without a hitch over this distance.

<< Klaus Lanzinger >>