Feature 07.03.2024 4 minutes

Foundational Fun

Tasty apples in basket on kitchen table. Old books lie next to apples in a garbage. Autumn season. Wooden table, black background

Celebrating the best of America.

On the week of July 4, my family will make our annual pilgrimage to the distinctly American and America-loving “town” of Jacksonville, Florida.

There, we will celebrate Independence Day among friends and loved ones alike with both contemplation and merriment.

The festive portion of the holiday will kick off with a morning parade and much flag-waving. The afternoon will consist of football-tossing and wave-hopping at the beach. The evening will commence with a sumptuous feast replete with, among other culinary delights prepared by a rotating cast of barbecue regulars: Grilled corn, turkey, smoked beef sausage, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, cookies, pies, sheet cake adorned with the stars and stripes, and my wife’s incomparable brownies.

Following the meal, the last of the libations will flow before revelers saunter over to the end of a close-by pier to witness a dazzling display of fireworks over the ocean.

July 4 in Jacksonville is a wonderful and cherished tradition—one we, like millions of Americans partaking in similar customs, are blessed to celebrate in relative peace and prosperity in the greatest country in the history of mankind.

But to my mind the joyous activities are really sides to the main course—the intellectual fare that gives the day real meaning and fills us with appreciation for those who gifted it, and this nation, to us.

To that end, each year on Independence Day I will lead readings of, and—I imagine to a greater extent as my children grow older—rich discussions about a series of relevant documents. The list includes of course the Declaration of Independence, as well as John Adams’s letter to Abigail Adams from July 3, 1776, Abraham Lincoln’s fragment on the Constitution and the Union dated to January 1861, and Calvin Coolidge’s Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, dated July 5, 1926.

Call it a Publius session in miniature – a session greatly informed by that fruitful and felicitous fellowship I was so delighted to participate in nearly a decade ago now.

In reviewing these items, I am always struck by the courage, wisdom, and foresight of our founders. The texts also remind us of the humility, virtue, and piety of our past leaders.

By the same token, these reads are chastening. They remind us how unmoored we have grown from the values and principles that prevailed across this country – and at great cost.

The long train of abuses and usurpations has once again run its course, rendering us in fundamental ways unrecognizable. We have permitted and abided it.

Independence Day then ought to serve at once as both a celebration—filled with reverence and gratitude—but also as a call to arms, a call to rekindle the revolutionary spark that fueled our rise.

The holiday should summon within us the same spirit as that which animated those who came before us to mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor to once again shed the yoke of tyranny and re-establish a nation of Free and Independent States.

We owe those who bequeathed us this great land, and our progeny, nothing less.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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