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Gazette Editorial

Red, white and blue was all the rage. Stars and stripes spangled clothing, collectibles and party decor when America celebrated its 200th birthday.

In Billings, 25 years ago today, the community threw an all-day celebration in Pioneer Park with speeches, an outdoor concert by the Billings Symphony Orchestra and an hour-long fireworks display. Community church members joined in a service at the Metra.

At noon MDT, President Gerald Ford led a ceremony in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where the bell tower pealed at the moment that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Bells in Billings rang in celebration, too.

Today’s bicentennial and a quarter will be lower key. That’s all the more reason to consider what we have to celebrate for the 225th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Independence has always been a hallmark of Montana life. We Montanans don’t like to be told what to do; we value personal freedom; we want our privacy. We live and let live.

Two hundred twenty-five years ago, nobody had even imagined the state of Montana. Native Americans and buffalo populated this land. The Montana Territory rose to national attention at the nation’s centennial, which was being celebrated just as news was received about Custer’s defeat in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But it would be another 13 years before Montana achieved statehood.

Montana is still young in the context of American history, just 112 years old as a state. We still have a relatively small population of 900,000. We still have wide open spaces, bountiful natural resources and natural beauty.

The challenge for the next quarter century will be achieving unity and balance. We must balance demands for growth and development with needs for preserving the clean air, water and the landscapes that make Montana “the last best place.” We must unite to diversify our economy and to ensure that all Montanans have an opportunity to share in greater prosperity.

On this 225th Independence Day, we’re looking forward to a bright future. We look for Montanans to share the riches of this land and the quality of life cherished by generations of Montanans.

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