The Fourth of July is celebrated in Harvard with fireworks and music, a parade, and games for all ages in an annual burst of public spirit. The jampacked holiday is the work of the self-funded, all-volunteer Fourth of July Committee, while the parade shows off the many businesses and volunteer organizations that make Harvard such a livable community.
Harvard’s can-do public spirit, along with that of the other 294 towns of Massachusetts, should not be taken lightly. That spirit is an essential component of the town meeting and volunteer-driven form of government that has been practiced here for more than 300 years. The confidence that Massachusetts and the other 12 colonies could govern themselves underlies the words of the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate next week.
Perhaps we should think of the Fourth of July not only as a celebration of independence from a distant colonizer, but also as a time to rededicate ourselves to making self-government work. Participation can take many forms. Some have the time and inclination to join a town board or run for office or staff a volunteer organization. But for others, attending hearings and forums, participating in town meetings, or voting in town elections is the most that can be expected. Both are vital to our form of government.
So come mingle with your neighbors on the Common for the parade at 11 a.m. Saturday and on the school grounds afterward for food and games. Then head for the music and fireworks at Fruitlands on Monday evening. But as we marvel at the creativity and good works of Harvard’s resident-powered organizations, maybe it’s time—to paraphrase a past U.S. president—to ask not what our town can do for us, but what we can do for our town.