WASHINGTON - How different a year can look.
Last year, President Joe Biden pledged for a return to normalcy so Americans could enjoy their Fourth of July holiday without fear of the deadly COVID-19 virus. This year, Biden addressed the nation regarding a different sort of national health crisis: Mass shootings.
Following a deadly shooting in which a gunman on a rooftop opened fire on an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago on Monday, killing at least six people, wounding at least 30, Biden delivered remarks calling for an end to the violence.
Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were "shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day." He said he had "surged Federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter, who remains at large at this time."
The July 4 shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.
While the U.S. grapples with yet another mass shooting, Biden hoped his remarks could focus on the efforts his cabinet has made to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Fourth of July, the Biden administration was in the midst of a nationwide push to get 70% of American adults vaccinated against COVID-19. The White House planned a bash that doubled as a celebration of independence from the virus. The economy was booming and public approval of President Joe Biden’s job performance was solid. Fast-forward to this Independence Day, and many things have seriously changed.
Within weeks, even some of the president’s allies privately admitted that the speech had been premature. Soon the administration would learn that the delta variant could be transmitted by people who had already been vaccinated.
Masks went back on, then came polarizing vaccination mandates. The even-more-contagious omicron variant would arrive months later, infecting millions and causing chaos during the holiday season.
In May 2022, the COVID death toll topped one million in America — the first country in the world to reach the grim milestone.
Now, the coronavirus is indeed less of a threat and infections are far less likely to lead to death, but Congress is refusing to supply more money to deal with the pandemic.
The pandemic’s resurgence was swiftly followed last summer by the debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan when the Taliban seized control of the country faster than the administration expected as the U.S.-backed regime collapsed. Then, negotiations over Biden’s broader domestic agenda stalled, only to collapse altogether in December.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February caused a worldwide spike in gas prices, exacerbating inflation that reached a 40-year-high.
And another blow for Biden’s administration came last month when the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion under Roe v. Wade and curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that his approval rating remains at 39%, the lowest since taking office and a steep slide from 59% one year ago. Only 14% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 44%.
News of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Illinois further rocked the nation already awash in turmoil over a high court ruling on guns as well as hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection.
But earlier in the day, Biden shared a piece of optimism.
"The Fourth of July is a sacred day in our country — it’s a time to celebrate the goodness of our nation, the only nation on Earth founded based on an idea: that all people are created equal," President Joe Biden tweeted on Monday. "Make no mistake, our best days still lie ahead."
Biden and first lady Jill Biden are once again hosting a celebration at the White House. Military families are invited and the president is scheduled to deliver remarks celebrating the day at 5 p.m. ET.
Later that night, they will view the annual fireworks display over the National Mall.
The Fourth is a day for taking off work, flocking to parades, devouring hot dogs and burgers at backyard barbecues and gathering under a canopy of stars and exploding fireworks — in many cases, for the first time in three years amid easing coronavirus precautions. And despite inflation and high gas prices, Americans have been taking advantage of their newfound freedom.
AAA predicted that nearly 48 million people traveled at least 50 miles or more from home over the weekend, slightly fewer than in 2019.
And airports saw their biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020 — about 2.49 million passengers went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million reached earlier in the week, according to figures released Saturday by the Transportation Security Administration.
The escalating numbers show leisure travelers aren’t being deterred from flying by rising fares, the ongoing spread of COVID-19, or worries about recurring flight delays and cancellations.
Live NOW from FOX will be hosting a Fourth of July special for those who may not be able to get a clear view of the fireworks. Join Live NOW from FOX at 9 p.m. E.T. on Monday, July 4th to watch.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed