Conversations in Management: John Adams!

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated as the great anniversary Festival.

John Adams

FlagIndependence! Despite his prickly nature, Adams was absolutely giddy when the Continental Congress declared its independence from Great Britain. He was right on the mark when he predicted the day would 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.” (He was prescient as well considering the colonies were hemmed in by the Appalachians at the time.) After years of uncertainty, Congress had finally declared, “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Denying that he was “transported with Enthusiasm,” he was none-the-less unable to contain his unbridled joy, hope and triumph when writing to his wife Abigail a day later on July 3. That’s right, independence was declared on July 2, 1776 when Congress passed the Lee Resolution. Two days later they finished the paperwork by signing the Declaration of Independence. Despite Adams’ conviction that July 2 would be, “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” it should come as no surprise that an incipient federal bureaucracy would favor celebrating the paperwork over the declaration. In fairness, things were pretty confusing at the time. The Lee Resolution wouldn’t become unanimous until July 9 when New York got around to voting in favor of it and the Declaration of Independence wouldn’t become official until August 2. If this strikes you as a little post facto, it did to Washington as well. After all, the country had been fighting the British for the past fifteen months. When New York agreed to the Lee Resolution, he gambled it was safe to read the Declaration of Independence to his troops so that they’d know why they were fighting (a gesture always appreciated by the troops in any conflict). With so many days to choose from for the holiday, everyone figured the fourth was as good a day as any for a picnic. Americans have made merry every Fourth of July since.

Modern times, of course, bring their own considerations to the celebration. Since the specificity of the Fourth of July doesn’t lend itself to a three day weekend, some have suggested that we build on Adams’ concept of a Great Anniversary Festival and have the holiday begin on July 2 and run through July 4. That way Americans could celebrate the day independence was actually declared as well as the day the paperwork was completed. What’s more, everyone would be guaranteed a three day break no matter on which day of the week the holiday fell. Fair enough, but when celebration diehards learned that the French get a whopping 31 holidays a year, they agitated for extending the holiday through July 9 when the Lee Resolution became unanimous. Unfortunately, pushback from the productivity lobby—who oppose holidays in general—sidelined the effort.

Apparently we’re stuck with just the fourth for now. This year while, kicking back, we might recall that freedom isn’t free. It takes a lot of work just to maintain what we’ve got—to say the least of passing the gift along to others. Despite the many serious threats to freedom in the world today, the greatest is indifference because that leads to decay. Freedom is a living thing and like all living things it requires nurturing and care. It can’t be ignored and expected to thrive. And it’s the obligation of every citizen to keep it alive. Have a happy second, fourth and ninth!            —Ebert

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