The Fourth of July is an opportunity for families to gather and celebrate with fun, food and fireworks — a tradition that dates back to the first celebration when fireworks lit up the sky in 1777.

Today, more than 14,000 fireworks displays light up the nation's sky each Independence Day, according the American Pyrotechnics Association.

While many Americans enjoy a day off to mark July 4, it's important to remember why we celebrate and remember our founding fathers and the freedoms they valued — freedoms that are still so crucial today.

The First Amendment, which protects Americans' five freedoms — speech, religion, press, assembly and petition — should not be taken for granted.

Journalists hold freedom of speech and freedom of the press in high regard. It's what allows us to do our jobs and keep readers informed.

Our founding fathers, who united and led the war for independence from Great Britain, recognized the relevance of such freedoms.

“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter,” George Washington said.

The free press is continually attacked and referred to as “fake news.” Yet, journalists are ever vigilant, continuing to find the truth and inform the public.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Thomas Jefferson said.

It's our responsibility as American citizens to protect our rights. So while you enjoy the holiday, please never forget your precious freedoms and the sacrifices made to ensure they remain.

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