The 4th of July

(Editor's note: Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman in 2010 submitted the following as part of The Heritage Foundation's "InsiderOnline" blog, which has been featuring thoughts from conservative and libertarian leaders about the 4th of July.)

Independence Day is the year's greatest opportunity to help my family understand the work we do in the freedom movement and why it is important. Unlike life on the farm where I grew up, my work day typically produces a less tangible harvest. A farmer can tell if he's plowed the ground on any given day, but it's harder for a think tank guy to tell if he gained any ground for freedom.

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So I've explained to perplexed parents, brother and sisters, extended family, and especially my wife and children how think tanks and their ideas shift public policy that affects us all.  In so doing I've explained the linkage between intangible ideas and the very tangible blessings of liberty that are so easy to take for granted.

Independence Day brings to the fore the ideas of liberty, the fruits of liberty, and the sacrifices necessary to secure liberty. My favorite way to capture my organization's devotion to the lofty ideals embodied in The Founding is something penned by my late friend and colleague, Joe Overton.

Joe wanted his staff to commemorate Independence Day the way he did, so he added this to our employee policy on holidays:

"All staff are encouraged to celebrate Independence Day with passion and verve, remembering it as the signatory day of a document embodying the most sublime of political ideals, an apogee in mankind's quest for liberty of thought and action, the restoration of which is the vision of our organization."

Joe's words have grown ever more sweet and meaningful since his passing seven years ago this week. Many of my colleagues and I share his words with our families every July 4th to enliven our spirits, remember the fallen, and arouse our gratitude for God's good gifts.


Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.

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