The Spectacular July 4 Celebrations: Unveiling the Extraordinary Ways United States Presidents Have Commemorated

**Presidential Independence Day Celebrations Throughout History**

**Presidents Embracing Public Celebrations**

Throughout history, the Fourth of July has been a day for some presidents to declare their independence from the public, and others to insert themselves front and center in the festivities. While some presidents took the opportunity to escape to various locations, such as the beach, mountains, golf course, farm, or ranch, others preferred to actively participate in the celebrations. Past Independence Day events have ranged from large-scale oratory speeches to military displays and casual gatherings.

**Presidents Filling Different Roles**

Presidential actions on the Fourth of July have varied widely over the years. Teddy Roosevelt drew hundreds of thousands of people for his July Fourth oratory, while John F. Kennedy commanded a huge crowd from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. In 2019, Donald Trump organized a celebration that featured tanks, bombers, and other war machinery, a departure from the usual avoidance of military displays. Richard Nixon, on the other hand, managed to enrage anti-war protestors without even showing up.

**Changing Approaches**

In recent times, presidents have tended to take a step back and allow the people to enjoy the celebration. George W. Bush held a ceremony welcoming immigrants as new citizens, while Barack Obama hosted a South Lawn barbecue for troops. Bill Clinton chose to watch a young bald eagle named Freedom be released to the wild on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. In 2021, Joe Biden gathered over 1,000 people on the White House South Lawn for burgers and fireworks, a noteworthy event considering the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

**Historical Fourth of July Celebrations with Presidents**

Throughout history, presidents have celebrated the Fourth of July in unique ways. Here are a few notable examples:

**1777: John Adams** – On the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, future president John Adams described a day and night of spontaneous celebration in Philadelphia. After parading troops, fireworks, bonfires, and music, Adams walked alone in the dark and witnessed the city illuminating candles at the windows.

**1791: George Washington** – Two years after becoming the first president, George Washington celebrated in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with an address, fine cuisine, and a walk around town. Lancaster had hosted the Continental Congress during the revolution.

**1798: John Adams** – As president, Adams reviewed a military parade in Philadelphia, showcasing the nation’s military strength.

**1801: Thomas Jefferson** – Jefferson presided over the first Fourth of July public reception at the White House.

**1822: James Monroe** – Monroe spent the day at his farm in Virginia.

**1826: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson** – Both presidents died on this July Fourth.

**1848: James Polk** – Polk witnessed the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument and attended a military parade.

**1850: Zachary Taylor** – Taylor attended festivities at the grounds of the Washington Monument and fell ill after consuming spoiled cherries and milk, eventually dying on July 9.

**1861: Abraham Lincoln** – Lincoln sent a message to Congress defending his invocation of war powers during the Civil War and appealing for additional troops.

**1868: Andrew Johnson** – Postwar, Johnson executed a proclamation granting amnesty to those who fought for the Confederacy.

**1902: Theodore Roosevelt** – Roosevelt spoke to 200,000 people in Pittsburgh.

**1914: Woodrow Wilson** – Wilson declared, “Our country, right or wrong,” at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

**1928: Calvin Coolidge** – Coolidge went trout fishing in Wisconsin.

**1930: Herbert Hoover** – Hoover vacationed by the Rapidan River in Virginia.

**1934: Franklin Roosevelt** – Roosevelt was in or near the Bahamas, on a monthlong voyage and visit to Hawaii, when July 4 arrived. On that day, he embarked on a fishing party after leaving the U.S.S. Houston.

**1946: Harry Truman** – With World War II over, Truman relaxed at Roosevelt’s Shangri-La retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, later renamed Camp David.

**1951: Harry Truman** – Truman addressed a large crowd at the Washington Monument grounds on the 175th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, as the U.S. was at war in Korea.

**1953 and 1957: Dwight Eisenhower** – Eisenhower spent the day playing golf.

**1962: John F. Kennedy** – In the midst of the Cold War, Kennedy addressed a vast crowd in Philadelphia, expressing his nation’s commitment to leading the struggle for independence worldwide.

**1968: Lyndon Johnson** – Johnson spoke in San Antonio about the need for independence for the poor, minorities, the ill, and those living in fear of crime.

**1970: Richard Nixon** – Nixon’s taped message for an “Honor America Day” celebration held in California was played to crowds on the National Mall and was hotly protested by anti-war activists and civil rights advocates.

**1976: Gerald Ford** – Ford spoke at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Independence Hall, and reviewed the armada of tall ships in New York harbor as part of the U.S.’s bicentennial celebrations.

**1987: Ronald Reagan** – Reagan made a political statement during his holiday radio address, promoting an economic “bill of rights” and endorsing Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.

**2008: George W. Bush** – Like several presidents before him, Bush hosted a naturalization ceremony, welcoming over 70 people from 30 countries as new citizens.

**2010 and 2012: Barack Obama** – Obama celebrated the Fourth of July by combining the traditions of honoring troops and welcoming new citizens. In 2010, he brought 1,200 service members to the South Lawn for a barbecue.

**2017: Donald Trump** – Trump spent the day at his golf club and hosted a White House picnic for military families.

**2021: Joe Biden** – Biden gathered a crowd on the White House South Lawn to celebrate Independence Day with burgers and fireworks. The event was significant since large gatherings were previously restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Presidential celebrations on the Fourth of July have evolved over time. While some presidents have sought to distance themselves from public events, others have actively engaged in the festivities. Each president has left their own unique mark on the holiday, shaping the way it is celebrated to this day.

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