- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

For Dean Bennett, playing the part of Benjamin Franklin yesterday felt like another day at work.
"Every July Fourth I get excited," said Mr. Bennett, an actor who portrayed Franklin during a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Union Station.
About 300 people attended the reading, which was conducted in the main hall of the train station because of ongoing renovations at the National Archives.
Mr. Bennett said this Independence Day wasn't particularly special for him, but he appreciated the renewed patriotism of many Americans.
What he appreciates most about the holiday, he said, is the celebration of America as a success story. "Ours is the greatest democracy in the world," Mr. Bennett said.
In the reading of the Declaration, Mr. Bennett was joined by actors who portrayed Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Also participating were WJLA-TV (Channel 7) news anchor Maureen Bunyan and WUSA-TV (Channel 9) news anchor Gurvir Dhindsa.
As Miss Bunyan intoned, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," the words echoed off Union Station's marble walls and the audience listened with rapt attention.
Yesterday's heat and humidity were the biggest challenges of the day.
"I think if anyone stayed away, it was because of the heat," said Sarah Bennett, who works in the White House communications office. She is not related to the actor, Mr. Bennett.
Miss Bennett said the Declaration has meant more to her this year. "It made me realize how much these words are still true today," she said. "The reading of the Constitution means so much more than ever before."
The reading highlighted a day filled with hands-on historical events, including a special display of the 1823 copper plate used to print copies of the Declaration.
Miss Bennett said the singing of "America the Beautiful" at the end of the ceremony gave her goose bumps.
"Every one of us holds our country and freedoms a lot dearer today," she said.
During the reading of the names of each signatory of the Declaration, the audience was led in resounding cheers for the original 13 states.
Mr. Bennett, who has been portraying Franklin since 1981, said he loves the role because Franklin is held in such high esteem.
"But no matter where I go in the country, I get recognized. Ben Franklin is everyone's favorite uncle. He was a common man, self-taught," he said, as children as young as 3 recognized him and shouted Franklin's name.


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