Tomorrow our nation will celebrate its 236th birthday. As Americans we will commemorate not only our independence from mother England but also the many freedoms that we enjoy. Although not enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the freedom to be generous with others and build toward the common good is as American as apple pie.
Early in the history of the United States a young French nobleman came to our country to learn more about the American experiment. And it was an experiment—the only attempt at self-government in the modern world at the time. His name was Alexis de Tocqueville. He recorded his observations in his timeless work Democracy in America. What he learned about the American character astonished him.
The people that De Tocqueville saw were a people unencumbered by the shackles of medieval and monarchial paternalism. They took the responsibility for the well-being their communities and fellow citizens upon themselves. Through like-minded associations and charitable organizations, philanthropy blossomed.
Even fundraising as a profession and art got its start early. Benjamin Franklin, perhaps our nation’s first fundraiser, compiled his approaches and shared his insights on the most effective way to raise charitable dollars. The principles of fundraising that he espoused over two hundred years ago are still the ones used by the best fundraisers today.
Although philanthropy is a human impulse that knows no territorial boundaries, let us not forget that the desire to give back and make the world a better place found its fullest expression here in the United States–the modern birthplace of freedom. Philanthropy is growing in other areas of the world. In every case, these efforts take as their inspiration the American example.
Happy Fourth of July! Let us celebrate our freedom by sharing with others.
Larry C. Johnson
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