A collaborative way to celebrate July Fourth


The Fourth of July has always held a special power over me.

I love the hot dogs and burgers and my mother’s delicious potato salad.

Mostly, though, I’ve always cherished the great gatherings of family and friends that culminate with spectacular fireworks displays that light up the dark summer sky.

I knew as a kid that on July 4th we were celebrating our many freedoms, which we earned by gaining independence from the British during the Revolutionary War, and which we cemented with the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

As an adult, I know our country was imperfect then, as it is now — that the Declaration of Independence, which spoke so forcefully of individual liberty, was leaving out people who were enslaved.

But I also know that our Constitution got many things right, especially checks and balances to keep each our three branches of government from getting too powerful, and the Bill of Rights, which guarantees the protection of the basic rights average citizens like me continue to enjoy.

Freedom of speech allows me to write this column and criticize my government when I think it is overstepping its bounds (hello, $32 trillion in recklessly borrowed funds).

It’s for all of these reasons that I especially enjoy celebrating the Fourth of July.

According to, in 1776 some Americans — fully displaying the raucous American sense of humor — “celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III.”

But the first official Fourth of July celebration occurred in Philadelphia in 1777 when Americans fired a cannon 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies, and also set off 13 fireworks, reports USA Today.

“The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: ‘at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated,’” reports

In Boston, on the very same night, the Sons of Liberty also set off fireworks, so fireworks have been a central part of our July 4th celebrations ever since.

To me, though, the biggest element of the July 4th celebration is how we have so often come together to overcome our greatest challenges.

The 13 colonies had many differences and disagreements as their delegates worked together to establish the Declaration of Independence.

According to USA Today, Barbara Clark Smith, a curator of political history at the National Museum of American History, notes how extraordinary it was for colonists to find common ground.

“They did find a way to put differences aside and join together to work for a common goal,” she added. “While declaring independence, they also declared interdependence.”

And that is why on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously approved and adopted the Declaration of Independence.

In that collaborative spirit, I offer an idea.

In addition to the hot dogs, burgers and our family’s uniquely delicious potato salad, on this July 4th why don’t we engage in a civil discussion with friends and family members with whom we may disagree?

Why don’t we try a special exercise in which we identify some of the basic things we agree on?

I’m betting that as we clarify our thinking in a civil manner, we’ll discover we agree far more than we disagree.

Follow this approach and the only fireworks that will go off during your July 4th gathering will be the ones that illuminate the night sky!


Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate, is the creator of the infotainment site, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at