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A Lot to Celebrate on the Fourth of July

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/David Goldman

Sixty-six percent of Americans believe that the Fourth of July is one of our nation's most important holidays. To celebrate, 62% of Americans will watch fireworks, 54% will enjoy a cookout with family and friends, 19% will attend a parade, 13% will go to the beach, and 11% will sing patriotic songs.

Only 6% will read the document that started it all: the Declaration of Independence. And to be honest, many probably mix up the declaration and the Constitution. But the vast majority continue to embrace the core ideals expressed in our nation's founding document. Ninety-four percent agree with a sentiment sometimes defined as the American Creed: Every American should have the right to live their own life as they see fit, so long as they respect the rights of others to do the same.

Obviously, we still have problems to overcome. Seventy-four percent of voters believe our political system is badly broken, and 67% believe our political leaders don't respect the voters they are supposed to serve. Eighty-seven percent believe corruption is widespread in the federal government. In fact, just 27% believe the federal government primarily serves the interests of the American people. More than twice as many -- 60% -- believe it primarily looks out for its own interests.

But despite these problems, Americans are optimistic. Fifty-eight percent believe that our nation's best days are still to come. That optimism is found among rural, urban and suburban communities. It is shared by white voters, black voters and Hispanic voters.

To some who live and breathe politics, that makes no sense. They wonder how people look at our nation's toxic and dysfunctional political system and are still optimistic. The answer is that there's more to a nation than politics. Sixty-five percent recognize that positive change in America generally comes from outside of the political system.

Additionally, voters keep politics in perspective. Sixty percent agree that politics has a role to play in governing our society, but it is not the lead role. Instead, 77% agree with the following statement: "For America to succeed, we need an all-hands-on-board approach that unleashes the creativity and resources of individual Americans, families, community groups, churches, entrepreneurs, small businesses, local governments, and more."

Eighty-nine percent believe that volunteering for community activities has a bigger positive impact on the nation than engaging in political campaigns. Ninety-four percent believe that giving to charity is a better use of money than giving to a political campaign.

Not only that, voters live out that belief with the use of their time. Over the past year, the single most common political activity was displaying a political sign or bumper sticker. Even though that involves very little personal involvement, just 15% have engaged politically in that way.

During that same time frame, a larger number have volunteered to help the poor (31%), volunteered at a church or religious event (28%), given blood (23%) or volunteered with a school organization (22%). In other words, Americans would rather give blood than get involved in politics.

So, this Fourth of July, let's celebrate the fact that Americans have been blessed with a proud legacy of individual freedom. That freedom allows us to work together in community and create a better world.

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