Independence Day has always been very special to me and my family. As the son of a second-generation career Army officer, I spent most of my early life living away from the US, including several very inhospitable countries. This life gave me an early appreciation for what it means to be an American that remains with me to this day.
To me July 4th is not only about the flag, barbeques, music and fireworks. It is about the ideals our country strives to represent. The ideals of freedom, opportunity, and responsibility bind us together as Americans. Living in the former Soviet Union, when the government officials weren’t watching, ordinary Russians would sneak us an ok sign or whisper support for freedom. Knowing that such simple acts of defiance would land them in jail or worse left a lasting powerful impression.
I admit that it has been hard lately to resist the temptation to slip into cynicism, disgust or anger over our current state of discourse. Whether it is the President’s vitriolic and destructive tweets, or far left politicians inciting rage and violence, or the actual attack on the newspaper of my adopted hometown Annapolis, the country is under serious duress.
I recently heard a respected consumer trends analyst describe our current cultural shift as a move to tribalism. She noted that despite or because of the advent of social media that our country is more fragmented and segregated than ever. Our self-segregation is eroding the common fabric of our communities and country. From our media consumption to our living arrangements to our buying patterns we are all now more hyphenated Americans than ever.
Clearly, we are experiencing this phenomenon in our public squares. We no longer have two major political parties, but a myriad of factions with competing interests and what constitutes victory. Many are no longer satisfied with winning the argument and the vote but are only satisfied with total and complete victory over a destroyed opponent. This is corrosive to our public discourse and our fabric as a country. Is the United States the perfect embodiment of our founding ideals? Of course not, but it those ideals that bind us together; those ideals that are a beacon even today for people to put their families at risk to make it our borders; and those ideals that provide the opportunity to succeed at any endeavor we undertake, including baking.
One of the many incredible joys of working for the baking industry is the wonderful sense community and sharing. We see it every day at ABA. Companies that fiercely compete in the marketplace united together for the common purpose of strengthen the industry and serving American families. Do we have vigorous debates and disagreements? Absolutely. But we always seem to find the common ground on which to stand to support the industry and give everyone the opportunity to succeed.
As an adult with children of my own, one of our family traditions on July 4th is to watch the Capitol Fourth show from the West Lawn of the U.S Capitol. We even have attended in person from time to time. It is a wonderful celebration of everything that is so great about this country and our constant aspiration to live up to our ideals of freedom, opportunity for all and responsibility. It is a wonderful celebration of what unites us all regardless of which tribe we may think we belong.
I invite you to grab a hot dog or hamburger (with the bun!) or a piece of pie; gather your family and friends and celebrate our ideals as Americans. Happy Independence Day!