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The 4th of July – An Outsider’s Perspective

Kathy and I spend part of our summers in Spokane and other places south of the US-Canada border. The first time we experienced the Fourth of July, the celebration, camaraderie, and heart-felt patriotism readily evident amazed me.Whatever differences Americans have with each other, are set aside for this day and more. The 4th begins several days before and lasts several days after the 4th. I use the code. One doesn’t say the phrase; saying the 4th is enough. Have a Good 4th means something more than just have a good day.

One summer, in Portland, celebrations continued for several days after the 4th with fireworks displays in the river valley. Another year, we met a family in Yellowstone who had just left Mount Rushmore where about 250, 000 people gathered for the 4th. In Canada, that requires every member of some provinces or territory gather and, sometimes, more invitations need to be sent out to reach that number.

I glanced through Parker Palmer’s latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, and found a passage from Leonard Cohen’s song, Democracy. I have listened to this song many times, but re-seeing the words made rethink their meaning, with a beginner’s mind. I often wondered if Cohen portrayed American democracy in a negative light, but seeing the words again I saw something different. It is a hopeful message acknowledging the messiness and awkwardness of democracy at work and that America is a place where the democratic experiment is still happening. America is a place where family exists in the broadest sense and the heart is full and open to democracy.

Imagine if you could make the 4th an every day event, engage everyone, and export the message of hopefulness, patriotism, and democracy well and fully lived, based on the model of the 4th? What a world we would live in!

It’s coming to America first,

the cradle of the best and the worst.

It’s here they got the range

and the machinery for change

and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.

It’s here the family’s broken

and it’s here the lonely say

that the heart has got to open

in a fundamental way:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A

This is a picture of some early fireworks we took on the 3rd, 2012.

Have a great 4th


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

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