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What Does Freedom Mean to You?

I was feeling particularly patriotic this Independence Day while on an East Coast vacation with my sister where we traipsed around in the footsteps of our nation’s founders.

We were so moved by the landmarks on Boston’s Freedom Trail – the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was first read aloud, the Granary Burying Ground where John Hancock rests, and the site of the Boston Massacre which lit the spark of the American Revolution.

But it was a tiny little National Park Service cottage in Providence, Rhode Island that engaged and inspired us unexpectedly.

The Roger Williams National Memorial commemorates the life of one of country’s earliest rabble rousers. Williams first came to the colonies as a Puritan minister, but was banished from Massachusetts for spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions” – namely, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and fair treatment of Native Americans.

He founded Rhode Island as a refuge for people who wanted to worship as their conscience dictated.

Williams is thought to have been a key influencer on the founding fathers as they composed the Declaration of Independence. He’s an important ancestor to the freedoms we hold dear today.

The Williams Memorial upholds his conviction that each and every one of us should have freedom of conscience. It challenges every visitor to state their opinions – freely and in a civil manner, by asking them: what does freedom mean to you?

I have always felt that philanthropy and freedom are inextricably linked.

What a privilege to live in a society where we can give to whatever causes we choose! To give specifically to causes that promote freedom for others, is even more marvelous.

As fundraisers, we are so lucky to invite others to freely express their values through giving. I’ve always thought of fundraising as akin voting – putting a stake in the ground for what we feel is true and right and just and fair. By giving, we set forth our vision of the future we want for our children and our nation. Just like Roger Williams did so long ago.

So, this year, in honor of our founders and the man who inspired them, I offer you a belated Happy 4th of July and wish you another great year of fundraising, freedom, and rabble rousing.

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