Ah, the time-honored joys of the Fourth of July in North Baltimore — parades, pools, barbecues and state Del. Sandy Rosenberg standing on the steps of the Roland Park Library, reading aloud excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
It's that time of year, and Rosenberg, a longtime 41st District delegate, is ready. At 10 a.m., as he does every Independence Day, he will stand before a crowd of several thousand residents before the 18th annual Roland Park Fourth of July Parade, holding sheets of paper printed off the Internet, and will read Thomas Jefferson's historic words of freedom, starting with the famous first line.
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Rosenberg won't be reading from any dog-eared tome or official historic document. It's easier to go online and find any number of websites with the full text.
"I'll Google 'Declaration of Independence' the day before, make the print a little larger and go with it," he said. "I read the parts that are most familiar," mostly the first two paragraphs and the last paragraph.
"That's the heart of it," he said. The rest is "for the classroom."
Even at that, Rosenberg knows full well that the audience, mostly families with children on bikes and dogs on leashes, could care less about political bands or the powers of the earth. Paradegoers will be impatient to walk down Roland Avenue from the library to Roland Park Presbyterian Church, where free red, white and blue ice pops will be waiting for them and spray-happy firefighters will be on hand with their hoses.
"They're not here for me, or Jefferson in all honesty," Rosenberg said. "But you hope they leave with something before they walk down to get their Popsicles, a little sense of what the holiday is all about."
That's important to Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, who was first elected to the House in 1983 and is now in his 33rd year as a delegate. He calls the Declaration of Independence "the declaration heard 'round the world," and that parents should "start a conversation" with their children about the true meaning of the Fourth.
"There's a reason why Mommy and Daddy have the day off and we have a barbecue and close the street and have a parade," he said. "It's because these brave people created this country on this day."
Rosenberg isn't the only official reading from a famous historical document on the Fourth in North Baltimore. In Mount Washington, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill will carry on the Independence Day tradition of reading the Preamble to the Constitution.
Rosenberg said the Roland Park Civic League first asked him to read from the Declaration of Independence and he's been doing it for at least 10 years.
"It's an honor," he said.
It's also in character for Rosenberg, 65, of Coldspring-Newtown, who has been interested in public service since he was a student at Cross Country Elementary School in Mount Washington. He remembers having to memorize President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. His first elective office was as president of the student government council at City College High School in 1968, succeeding future Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
Rosenberg majored in political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts and earned a law degree from Columbia University in New York in 1975. He said Bob Embry, former commissioner of the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development, hired him out of college to oversee the city's Section 8 public housing program.
Embry, a Roland Park resident, is now president of the Abell Foundation and, "He's always in the audience" for the Roland Park Parade, Rosenberg said. So is Stephen Sachs, the former state attorney general, Rosenberg said.
"At the least, he'll give me a thumbs up."
In 1982, Rosenberg was elected to the House of Delegates. Although he has never practiced law, he is more interested than most in constitutional law and is a history buff.
"I wouldn't say I'm a student (of history), but I can read it," he said.
As for the Declaration of Independence, "I do read it. I don't try to memorize it."
He thinks the Roland Park Library, built in 1924 on land donated by the civic league, is a fitting place to gather on the Fourth and hear the Declaration of Independence, partly because its renovation and expansion in 2007 was paid for with public and private dollars — and because Jefferson was instrumental in rebuilding the Library of Congress when he sold most of his book collection to the U.S. government after the British burned the original Library of Congress collection in 1814, during the War of 1812.
"I would think (Jefferson) would appreciate this location" in Roland Park to commemorate Independence Day, Rosenberg said.
He said reading from the Declaration of Independence never gets old, "because of the extraordinary significance of the words and what prompted the declaration — and that we're still here."