Every year on July 4, Americans celebrate independence from the British Empire — no small feat. Yet Frayda Levy worries that the holiday’s seemingly narrow scope —celebrating a specific, historical event, rather than a broader concept — doesn’t do enough to convey the importance of American freedom. And since it’s smack dab in the middle of summer, well after the school year ends and before a new one begins, many kids won’t necessarily learn why American independence is so important.
“It’s about gaining our independence from Britain, that’s a very different goal,” Levy explained. “It’s specific and it’s about a military victory as much as anything else… I feel that so many Americans don’t have a sense that so much of what they do is because they live in America.”
So to address this apparent void, Levy launched the first annual Freedom Day this past April 13 to celebrate freedom and discuss how best to preserve it. Her efforts were backed by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia (the site of Independence Hall), which hosted a conference that gathered 200 leaders and think-tank scholars of all political stripes — from the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute to the Center for American Progress and the ACLU — to join for a dialogue about freedom in the United States.
“This is about who we are as a people,” Levy said in an interview. “I think what distinguishes America from pretty much every other people is a love of freedom. But we’re losing that … I hope people realize, freedom isn’t just about me, it’s about tolerating when people do things I don’t like. If I want to be free, I can’t outlaw other people’s activities.”
Next April 13, Levy said Freedom Day would be more of a Davos-type environment, where leaders from entertainment, technology, media and commerce will come together and discuss how freedom impacts their industries or how their freedoms may be at risk. Levy said she hopes Freedom Day will catch fire and move to other cities and eventually be celebrated in schools the way Earth Day is now discussed nationwide. Levy said Earth Day began quite small in 1970 and grew organically into a nationwide phenomenon.
“I modeled after a very successful movement,” Levy said. “Today, kids can tell you all about recycling. But if you ask them ‘Why does freedom matter?’ they’d say ‘What do you mean?’”
Though she hopes Freedom Day is taught in schools, she is wary of mandating such a thing–particularly because she is a staunch advocate for school choice.
“Our goal is to make it exciting enough and interesting enough that they want to do this,” Levy said. “You have to focus on what it would do for them. Encouraging them to use it, enticing them, making them to say ‘You know, you’re right kids in my classroom don’t realize what freedom means and what they have.”
“I know that might seem rather elusive, but if you think about it, the environmental impact study did not exist, that was created along the way,” Levy said, pointing to the example of occupational licensing is estimated to kill millions of jobs.
“We would then have to think when a law was passed how are we impacting Americans’ freedom,” she said. “The idea would be to force them to look at this. You’ve got to start with the public because otherwise the politicians themselves will say ‘What’s the big deal?’ There’s always an interplay.”
“We could to it easily with legislation, but it’s not in the nature of politicians to worry about freedom,” Levy explained. “It’s like going to a bar and saying ‘Why don’t you stop serving alcohol?’ They are in the business of passing laws. That is their business and very few of them are passing laws to protect your freedom. So this has to start with cultural pressures, and we do not want any more of these laws.”
“I wanted people to appreciate freedom,” Levy said. “And we need to appreciate the freedom that exists in this country or else it can be taken away.”
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Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others.