Community members, leaders reflect on 4th of July amid heightened divisions

NOW: Community members, leaders reflect on 4th of July amid heightened divisions

MILWAUKEE Wis. (CBS 58) -- As the United States celebrates its 246th birthday, many are reflecting on what the Fourth of July means to them.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson acknowledged this holiday is during a challenging time for many as they battle inflation and the turmoil over Supreme Court rulings on abortions and guns.

"As I've gone around the city to parks all across Milwaukee, I see people coming together underneath stars and stripes, under the American flag," said Johnson during an event at King Park. "It's one of those things that brings the entire community together. It's powerful and we need to see more things like that in Milwaukee."

Gun violence was one of the issues Johnson said many people spoke to him about during his string of visits across Milwaukee. He said he is optimistic things can change, referencing the gun safety deal reached by members of Congress.

"I'm hopeful that we will see some success there and it will be a message not to the folks in Washington but to people in cities and small towns across America, that's what we need to get back to," Johnson said.

This Independence Day comes amid sharp political division in Wisconsin and across the country, but that didn't stop many people from putting their political difference aside to celebrate coming together.

At Lake Park on the east side of Milwaukee, Larry Easley said this Fourth of July is about making new memories after the pandemic postponed events.

"Honestly, this year does feel different," Easley said. "We're coming out of a horrible pandemic and it feels like things are settling in, almost back to normal."

This holiday was also about keeping traditions alive by holding annual cookouts with family and friends. Al Pearson said he's proud to be an American despite the divisiveness across the country.

"I can be who I am in America," Pearson said. "I have my independence. I'm living the dream. I have nothing to worry about. Life is good right now."

A new Gallup poll shows a decline in the number of adults who consider themselves to be proud to be an American. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults who say they are "extremely proud" to be American is the lowest in Gallup's history, which began in 2001.

Still, 65% of U.S. adults express pride in the nation and 22% say they are "moderately proud," while 9% are "only a little" and 4% "not at all" proud, according to the poll conducted in June.

"I've been living overseas eight years now so I'm more proud to be an American," said Megan Griep, who's visiting family in Wisconsin. "What I think is so great about being an American is that you are able to get angry at things. In some countries you can get in a lot of trouble for speaking out against the government. I think it's really great we have freedom of speech.”

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