Capturing the Spirit of the 4th – No Matter Where You Are

In the late 1970s, I found myself in London on the 4th of July. I was a member of a boy’s chorus that was touring the United Kingdom.

One day we were the focus of a 30-minute BBC special about our visit. We sang a short set and were interviewed on topics of interest to our British pre-teen peers. Things were going fine until the host suddenly turned to me and asked, “Hey, isn’t it America’s birthday?  Tell me why that’s a big deal to you?”

I was initially stunned at this rather ridiculous question, but managed to respond, “Um, because we didn’t like your King. And that’s the day when we decided to start kicking your butt over it!”

I was clearly never destined for a diplomatic career.

Home for the Holidays – Or Not

Traveling abroad during a U.S. holiday is generally a forgettable experience. Missing Columbus, Labor, Veterans, Memorial, or even President’s Day is meaningless when walking the Champs Elysees, crossing Tiananmen Square, or just hanging out in Ottawa with a Mountie. And if you really hate missing fireworks over the Mall or the local parade with the Shriners’ funny riders, you can always find a U.S. consulate or embassy to get your July 4th barbecue-and-beer fix.

But there is one U.S. holiday when it does feel strange to be overseas—Thanksgiving, that distinctly American celebration of friends, food, family, and our nation’s history and tradition. Several times I’ve found myself across the Pond on the fourth Thursday in November. Trying to find turkey and cranberry sauce in the shadow of the Il Duomo di Firenze and Big Ben are peculiar experiences. But so are the lingering reminiscences of feeling somehow disconnected.

I confess being somewhat uncomfortable with strong displays of nationalistic pride. It’s simply who I am. But my rabid individualism does not somehow trump the idea of connectedness, especially on the 4th of July. Quite the contrary. I appreciate that spontaneous order and property rights create a powerful bond of mutual reliance and collective benefit, that voluntary exchange produces far more societal value than does government force.

When we pursue our self-interest, we never do so in a vacuum. We may not always like each other. But we do need each other. Perhaps now, even more than ever.

An Epic Alliance

When it comes to freedom and liberty, however, our passion is a bond that creates an Epic Alliance.

DonorsTrust exists to encourage and support that alliance. Even as we grow frustrated with the grind of the D.C. sausage factory, we are encouraged by the groups of activists and thinkers around the country, nay, around the world that are planting their freedom flags.  And we represent a passionate group of philanthropists whose vision for this country is one of optimism and opportunity.

241 years ago, we started a new system of government. Like a drunk man in a room, that government certainly stumbles its way through its responsibilities. As a system, however, it’s done more good than bad. More importantly, however, since the early days of the American Revolution, citizens have used their own ingenuity and pocketbooks to affect change – change that has fueled the success story that defines this country. I’ll celebrate that.

So, this July, let’s merge the Turkeytime of Thanksgiving with the red, white, and blue spinners of The 4th. Our families are scattered like a diaspora. But we can still eat, drink, laugh, make fun of and argue over something. Shoot off a firework (whether it’s legal or not) and celebrate the American spirit.

Even if you’re in England.


  • Lawson Bader

    Since 2015, Lawson Bader serves as president and CEO of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Before coming to DonorsTrust, he amassed twenty years’ experience leading free-market research and advocacy groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He began his career in DC in as special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, then worked as a legislative analyst/paralegal with Pierson, Semmes & Finley, and managed government relations at SRI International. He is a former weekly columnist with Human Events, and a current contributor to Kiplinger and member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council. He also serves on the governing boards of the Atlas Network, State Policy Network, and Oakseed Ministries International. Lawson earned a BA in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and an MA in public policy from The Johns Hopkins University.

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