It's more than a birthday; it's a blueprint.
The July Fourth holiday -- Independence Day -- is a type of cultural DNA, holding the seeds of national identity for the United States, shaping ideals and values nurtured during more than two centuries.
The adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, was historic, not just for the newly formed country, but also for the world. In addition to a theory of government, it presented the idea that people had a right to demand equality and freedom -- and citizens have continued to demand those rights ever since.
Brought to life at the hands of fiercely independent and rugged individualists, the country would take much of its national character from Independence Day -- ideals that would carry it through the crucible of war and internal strife.
"I think in the early history of the country, it was a very meaningful day," said Dr. Ralph Walker, a political scientist at Augusta State University. "It was about fighting for freedom and the Declaration of Independence.
"We're not as deeply patriotic as we were at one time. I think this national holiday has become more of a `holiday."'
Tracing the history of the country and its patriotic ideals across generations, The Augusta Chronicle has taken a look at the Fourth of July through the eyes of different ages, races and genders.
The vignettes tell the stories of military veterans, a new citizen, a baby boomer who grew up in the patriotic era that came after World War II and a teen-ager watching the 1990s flash-and-dazzle celebrations.
They tell what the July Fourth celebration means to them, the part patriotism plays in their lives and the ways their personal histories have shaped those views.