From the President



Celebrating Independence Day

July 2, 2018

By David Harmer

Being entrusted with the leadership of a civic-education organization bearing a name like Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, I of course find my thoughts turning, as Independence Day approaches, to …

… pyrotechnics! Like virtually every other red-blooded American male, I’m eagerly anticipating an evening of experimentation with incendiary devices and explosives. Per tradition, the extended Harmer family will celebrate the Fourth by gathering at the home of my brother Joe, where, after a titanic barbeque, the brothers in attendance will compete to see who can impress the youngest nephew present, six-year-old Charlie (“six AND A HALF,” he routinely corrects me), with the brightest flashes and most percussive sounds from our fireworks—many of which will have been purchased across state lines (federalism in action!), and some of which will have been augmented with post-purchase enhancements of questionable prudence, if not legality.

We brothers are well prepared for this duty, as we’re all veterans of the Boy Scouts. In my day, the primary purpose of scouting—as an Eagle Scout, I speak as something of an authority here—was to channel the adolescent male’s congenital pyromania into relatively safe and supervised venues (“relatively” being a key qualifier). Ours was Camp Pahatsi, a bucolic clearing in the high Sierras near Soda Springs, California, which, in summer, became a veritable Manhattan Project of chemical engineering. Matches, flint and steel, butane lighters, welding torches (don’t ask), tinder of various types, aerosol cans, flammable fluids—we investigated them all, in venues ranging from the nearest fire pit to the furthest outhouse, losing most of our eyebrows in the process, and becoming familiar with scientific concepts such as the blast radius.

Happily, Joe’s neighborhood is thick with fellow former scouts who not only tolerate but seek to surpass the Harmer brothers’ employment of combustible substances for the occasion. If there’s anything more American than firepower, it’s competition; and the heads of household in the vicinity are engaged in a highly salutary arms race, with annual escalation in the magnificence of the resultant spectacle.

Shouldn’t we commemorate American independence with more solemnity? Shouldn’t we focus on the history of the holiday and the blessings of liberty?

Well, of course all Americans should pause to give thanks for our freedoms; and of course in my family we will. But Independence Day is an occasion for a little reflection and a lot of celebration. The Founding Fathers—who took human nature as they found it, not as they wished it were—would approve. Indeed, no less irascible a curmudgeon than John Adams said:

The Second Day of July 1776[1], will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.[2]

So by all means, start the day with contemplation and gratitude. Attend a sunrise service. Join AMVETS or the VFW or your local church for their flag-raising ceremony. Salute the scouts or the JROTC or the American Legion after they present the colors. Then celebrate! Enjoy family, friends, food, and fireworks.

And while you’re in a celebratory mood, please consider contributing to Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. There’s no better way to inculcate in the rising generation a commitment to the spirit and philosophy of the American founding. Give $300 — $25 a month — and you’ve offset the cost of a week’s worth of meals for a student on campus learning the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Or give $60 — just $5 a month — and cover that cost for a day. Contributions of any amount, large or small, are gratefully accepted and will be put to good use.


[1] The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776. The final written version of the Declaration of Independence was dated two days later, July 4, and was autographed by most delegates in a formal signing ceremony on August 2.

[2] Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776, written from Philadelphia.