July Fourth is a celebration of America. People all throughout the country will spend the day with family and friends. Some will eat apple pie and crack open a Budweiser, while others will celebrate with traditions — new and old — that you probably never heard about.
Just like there are a variety of ways to celebrate America, there are a variety of reasons to celebrate. At its simplest, we celebrate America because we are proud — because we are patriotic.
On the 242nd birthday of America, Americans will feel patriotic, for deeply different reasons.
No one person has a monopoly on patriotism. President Trump feels patriotic when NFL players stand during the national anthem, while the American Civil Liberties Union responds that “dissent is patriotic.”
To better understand what makes Philadelphians feel patriotic, the Inquirer and Daily News asked people to tell us about a time that they felt patriotic.
Answers have been edited lightly for style and clarity.
Margaret Plotkin, 63, Philadelphia
“I’m on my way to a political rally right now, because right now I don’t feel patriotic at all these days. I’m so intensely ashamed of what my government is doing in my name. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that because this is America, we can protest and maybe we can have effect. Fifty years ago I was marching in the street as a teenager and here I am back again, protesting the same old s–. I’ve got my 45-year-old ‘Impeachment With Honor’ button that I took out of my dresser drawer, like, ‘Yeah, gotta bring that back!’ And yet, maybe we can do something about it. And maybe that would be the strength of America. That would make me feel patriotic.”
Bigga Dre, 26, Chester
“The last time I felt patriotic was Friday, June 22, and Saturday, 23. On that Friday, we honored our ancestors at the President’s House and on Saturday, we had the Juneteenth Parade and Music Festival. Juneteenth is the actual independence day for African Americans, or those of African descent here in this country. A lot of our people don’t know about Juneteenth and think that July Fourth is the only Independence Day. But for African Americans, we got our freedom on June 19, 1865. In this country, we were given July Fourth as Independence Day. But in 1776, there were still African people enslaved in this country. Juneteenth gives us a sense of awareness. It gives our children a sense dignity and pride.”
Kirsten Milner, 21, Philadelphia
“I don’t think I am patriotic. I’m new here, to this state, and everybody’s different. It’s hard to feel patriotic when no one is respectful, even to the next person walking down the street. Nobody has time. Nobody wants to talk to you. They’re selfish. I think it’s hard to feel patriotic.”
Joe Becton, 65, Philadelphia
“I think that my patriotism stems from my family. I am an African American. I have a relative who fought in the American Revolution, Isaac Carter. I have a relative who fought in the Civil War, Moses Becton. World War I, my grandfather Julius Becton. World War II, my father and my uncle, Julius and Joe Becton. My relatives have served in Desert Storm and places like that. Myself, I was in the Marines during the Vietnam War. So for me, there is more of a service and commitment in my family more than a history that has made me patriotic. So because of their actions, I served in the Marines. I didn’t have go to Vietnam, but I was willing to do whatever I had to do based on my service, based on my personal patriotism.”
Luis Ferreiro, 48, Philadelphia
“All the time. I feel patriotic all the time. You’re in the United States, that means opportunities. That’s how it should be.”
Steve Bishop, 36, Philadelphia
“Probably on 9/11. I think sometimes it takes a disaster for the country to put aside their differences and come together, to work together instead of bickering between races, religions, sexual preferences, whatever it may be. I was stunned at first, because I saw the second plane when I was [with] my grandfather who served in the military. He didn’t believe that we could be hit like that in our own country. And you know, that made me think that maybe those differences that we do have aren’t so important and that we need to work together to make this country a better place. Not just for us, but for future generations.”
Alvina Aberdeen, Upper Darby
“I felt patriotic when I migrated here from Sierra Leone in 1991. I’ve been in America for 27 years now and I love it. I have two children. My son is in the U.S. Army and my daughter runs track and field. She wants to be in the Olympics. I’m a proud American citizen. There is a lot of opportunity here. You come and you be who you want to be, you excel, you learn, you become a doctor or whatever you’d like to be. You have freedom of speech, you respect the law, and you’ll be fine.”
Jessica Lowden, 38, Fishtown
“I think the last time that I felt patriotic was when I traveled overseas [to East Africa]. It’s a hard environment right now to figure out your emotions about the country, whether you’re proud or patriotic. But I think regardless of what is going on politically — and I might not be the most proud of our politics — I still feel good about our country in general. Particularly when I hear other people talk about America and how they’d like to come here.”
Mark Callahan, 56, West Philly
“The last time that I felt patriotic about the United States was when I was in the Army. A lot of things have changed. The president we have right now, I’m not really comfortable with some of the decisions that he’s making. It makes it hard to be patriotic when everything that the United States is supposed to stand for, it seems like he goes against.”
Matt Higgins, 60, Oreland
“I think the most patriotic moment that I’ve had recently was when I gave a talk at a naturalization ceremony. That was terrific because all of the folks who came to the ceremony were so excited. All the stories you hear of people coming to America to make a better life — it’s true. Everything that they want to have happen can happen when they come here. It’s just a great thing to see all the excitement and hope and desire in their eyes when they come in and stand up to give that oath of citizenship. With all of the anti-immigration rhetoric that comes from the administration, the folks who are in the administration ought to get out of Washington and come to see one of these naturalization ceremonies. That’s what it is all about. That’s what America is all about. And in my speech, I was able to get the crowd saying ‘USA, USA, USA!’ at the end.”