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Wednesday Deadline for NAIN 2014 Workshop Proposals

The North American Interfaith Network invites proposals for the 26th annual Connect conference hosted this year by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, August 10 – 13 at Wayne State University.

Via Nain:

Programs should explore how uniquely interfaith work can bridge borders and boundaries; best practices in interfaith work; unique community challenges that interfaith work has overcome; how interfaith work could transform the civic community; how does interfaith work meet the challenges of segregation and a racialized society? Proposals are invited for workshops and panel presentations. Each workshop/panel presentation will run for 90 minutes. The proposal deadline is Wednesday, March 5. Program confirmation will be made by Friday, April 18.

Enter submissions here.

The Power of Women as Agents of Peace

Rosalee Laws

Via Rosalee Laws for Women’s History Month , Parliament of the World’s Religions Ambassador 

I have had the pleasure of witnessing many women and women’s groups involved at all stages of peace work, from prevention to resolution. When I define peace work I mean it in a broad sense, not just the absence of war, but living honorably, dying in peace, having basic human needs met, and post conflict resolutions.

Amid 39 active conflicts over the last 10 years, few women have actually been at the table of peace negotiations. Out of 585 peace treaties drafted over the last two decades, only 16 percent contain specific references to women. Furthermore, around the world 1 in 3 women are subject to “non peaceful” or violent situations, including sexual and physical abuses.

Since it is quite obvious that women are very affected by “non-peaceful” situations, and they are 50 percent of this world’s population, isn’t it quite obvious they are a critical voice in the building of peace?

Inequality in Leadership Roles

It is time for women to come out of the shadows at the podium of peace.

It goes without saying, men tend to dominate the formal roles in the current peace-building process. Male peacekeepers, male peace negotiators, male politicians, and male formal leaders all take the spotlight. Power is unequally distributed between men and women and the majority of women do not have a voice in any local or national decision making processes. Such inequalities cause formal peacebuilding activities and policies to suffer from insufficient understanding of the diverse communities in which they are representing. Not including women in decisions making processes towards peace often means that female concerns are not addressed. Experiences and insights of both men and women during conflict and peace need to be represented in order to encapsulate all dimensions for holistic solutions.

The landscape of women’s participation has experienced significant change mostly in the area of awareness. All of us, men and women alike, have gender roles firmly embedded within us. The more we all try to pretend they do not exist, the less conscious we are of our own behaviors that promote inequality. Discussion of these issues openly is a first step to dealing with them and getting more women involved in the process of peace.

Getting Out Of Our Own Way

An effective message by female peacemakers overcomes conflict by refusing to kill the child of another mother.

Many women’s groups that are advocating their participation are siloed in existence to their peers. Most of the groups that exist have great broad ideas with lack of tactical implementation skills. Many current women’s movements and formal policies do not have established mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the progress of their work. Even at the international level, it is very upsetting to see how programs and policies lack in operational guidance, program implementation, data monitoring and evaluation, knowledge and resources. There is also a huge gap in knowledge for most organizations on how to harness technology resources such as social media that have the influence to mobilize millions all over the world in minutes.

The Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap

A bigger part of the problem is not just allowing women to come to the table, it is that women often themselves de-value their role as peacebuilders. So many women, despite their amazing achievements, feel like impostors and do not necessarily recognize the important roles they can play in both building peace and as leaders. Women need to recognize that within themselves they have attributes, valuable insights, and experiences, that NO ONE else has. Women embody the maternal gifts as caregivers, focus on the family, and resolving violence without conflict. Women of faith, in particular, are well suited for participation in peace efforts. They transmit peace values over generations and are already promoting critical values to the world.

What Would Big Change Look Like?

Big changes would happen if we first, could ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of peacebuilding activities and give them a confidence to do so. Second, we need to support and strengthen the already established women’s organizations that are currently working in their peacebuilding efforts. Finally, systems need to be established for enforcing and monitoring all efforts on a global scale.Women have such untapped potential to be effective participants, key-decision makers and beneficiaries of peace.

They must unravel the potential that exists within themselves to create a more peaceful world. Discovering their own voices. Find the courage to step up. There is a place for all women at the podium for peace.

Rosalee Laws, Ambassador, Parliament of the World’s Religions


Rosalee Laws is the CEO of R.O.S.E. a company that offers online development programs to business owners and organizational leaders. A passion for interfaith work that stems over a decade, Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founder of “women leadership” on reddit and the invite only “women in leadership” group on Linkedin. Rosalee has had experience in over 29 industries some of which include, working with the Secretary General at Religions for Peace, with United Nations entities, Disney Films, and the Associated Press. You can find out more on



Resources / Supplementary Information

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) (S.2982, HR. 4594). Amnesty International Issue Brief No. 2. March 2010.

United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1325 Women Peace and Security,” (2000).

Posa, Swanee Hunt and Cristina, “Women Waging Peace,” Foreign Policy, no. 124 (2001): 38-47.

Anju Chhetri, “Women’s Intervention in the Peace Processes,” Nepal Samacharpatra, August 29, 2006.

UNIFEM, “Securing the Peace: Guiding the International Community Towards Women’s Effective Participation Throughout Peace Processes,” edited by Camille Pampell Conaway Klara Banaszak, Anne Marie Goetz, Aina Iiyambo and Maha Muna (New York: UNIFEM, 2005),

United Nations, Women Peace and Security (2002)

Lisa Laplante, “Women as Political Participants: Psychosocial Postconflict Recovery in Peru,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, v. 13 no. 3 (2007).

Jackie Kirk, “Promoting a Gender-Just Peace: The Roles of Women Teachers in Peacebuilding and Reconstruction,” Gender and Development 12, no. 3 (2004):

Madeline Storck , “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilisation:a Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising” 20 December 2011.

Report of the Secretary-General on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding (A/65/354–S/2010/466)

Tahil Sharma and Sara Rahim to Represent Parliament at United Nations-DPI Youth Body

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was honored by receiving outstanding applications to represent us at the Youth Representative program of the United Nations DPI-NGO body for 2014. As the UN works to implement its post Millennium Development Goals agenda, these young leaders stand to implement action aligned to the Parliament’s mission of creating a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

We are pleased to announce the representatives selected are Ms. Sara Rahim and Mr. Tahil Sharma.

  • Sara Rahim

    Ms. Sara Rahim, will complete a double major in Public Health and International Studies from Saint Louis University this year. Sara’s passion for social justice expands to global health, interfaith, and refugee/migration issues. She has studied Arabic in Egypt, offered healthcare in Honduras, and spent a semester in Morocco, where she conducted a study on access to healthcare for undocumented sub-Saharan migrants. She later returned to Morocco to work with grassroots NGOs that focus on sub-Saharan female migrants’ health. On campus, Sara has spearheaded the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge for the past two years, while organizing student interfaith programming. Off campus, Sara has interned at Interfaith Youth Core coaching students to be leaders of interfaith action, and she has worked in refugee resettlement at World Relief. In the future, Sara would like to pursue a career in global health and international development, with a focus on communities in conflict, and she hopes to use interfaith as a tool towards sustainable development. 

Sara reflects, “Throughout my undergraduate experience, interfaith has always been a tool to build bridges across diverse traditions and to mobilize my community towards action. In the future, I hope to continue to work with communities in conflict towards building those bridges and improving access to areas such as health and education. Being able to represent the Parliament at the UN will allow me to live my mission on a national platform and engage with like-minded leaders towards building a global ethic.”

Tahil Sharma

  • Mr. Tahil Sharma, a senior who will complete his B.A. in International Studies and Languages at LaVerne University in California.

Tahil Sharma is working to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, with emphases in Japanese and International Studies at the University of La Verne in Southern California. Serving as an interfaith activist for numerous years, he is currently employed as the Coordinator for the Center for Sikh Studies at Claremont Lincoln University, under the Claremont School of Theology. His work in peace and community service has named him a Newman Civic Fellow for working with local communities on issues related to discrimination and prejudice, as well as issues of food insecurity.

Tahil reflects, ”getting the chance to go to the United Nations means that I can take part in changing the way diplomacy and foreign relations are dealt with in our day and age. The context of culture and religion play such significant roles in our society that not recognizing and respecting them would create misnomers for the identity of numerous people. Declaring the value and necessity of inter-religious amity and cooperation would mean informing and bring the world together for the greater good of humanity.”

Congratulations to Tahil Sharma, Sara Rahim, and to the next generation of interfaith leaders who are rapidly advancing the interfaith movement beyond limits.

Dr. Arun Gandhi’s “Farewell, Madiba”

Nelson Mandela Statue, in front of South African Embassy under construction, Washington, DC USA – Taken on World AIDS Day 2013

As the world mourns the death of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, affectionately known as Madiba, it is important that we don’t get too embroiled in sentiments and, in our grief, make the mistake of consecrating his message with his physical body. Like the thousands whom we revere as great people, Madiba was not great by birth, but became great through commitment and dedication to moral values. All of us are endowed with the same measure of commitment and dedication but we tend to use it more for material aggrandizement rather than to enhance our moral and ethical values.

An Indian Government official reportedly said in his condolence message that if the apartheid government had not incarcerated President Mandela for 27 years he would have changed the face of Africa long ago. Implying that those 27 years were wasted. Perhaps some of those years were excessive, but there is no escaping the fact that it was the incarceration that gave Madiba the opportunity to do some soul-searching and turned him from a revolutionary to a revered leader.

Through his life Madiba showed the world that adversity can be good if we use it with understanding. Many a leader who have gone through the same kind of adversity as President Mandela has come out more bitter and violent than ever because they wallow in self-pity. Madiba and others like him used adversity to make a positive change in themselves and their thinking. In a very true sense Madiba became the change he wished to see in the world, to use Gandhi’s famous quotation.

Madiba loved his country more than he loved himself. He was determined to do what was right and good for the country and not be filled with hate and vengeance against those who oppressed him. He had a vision for South Africa where all human beings could live in peace and harmony. It was a vision that has been shared by many leaders of the world, including Gandhi, but it is a vision that has not been realized quite simply because we have chosen the path of materialism rather than moral values. Gandhi warned us that materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases the other tends to decrease. In a highly materialistic world there is ample evidence today of declining morality. In fact the decay is so overwhelming that it denigrates the very concept of civilization. Is a civilization measured by its material achievements or by its moral integrity? If Madiba could change from being a revolutionary to becoming a revered world leader can we not change from being selfish to being selfless in the service of the world?

Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi is a trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India ( Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.

Voices of the Next Generation: Maryem Abdullah

Thinking on the future of interfaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions invited several interns to share on the topic of the next generation of the movement and living out the vision of those pioneers celebrated this important anniversary year. On November 16, 2013, four young adults spoke their hearts and minds to a welcoming crowd of 180 Parliament supporters.

The following interview reflects the vision of Parliament intern in communications and outreach, Maryem Abdullah, a student in the Honors College at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and premier student leader of the UIC Model United Nations. 

What do you consider to be your identity as an young adult joining the Interfaith movement?  

Personally, I identify as a Muslim-American. I was born and raised in Chicago, and so the United States is all I know, and which is why I identify as such. I do hold my Arab heritage close and it will always be a part of me. While I love the fact that I am Arab, I have a hard time [personally] identifying as such because of where I grew up and what surrounded me as a child and young adult. Above all that, however, Islam is near and dear to my heart. No matter where I am, how long I’ve lived there, and with whom I surround myself, I will always have my Muslim identity.

What are some common misconceptions of young Muslim and Arab women you encounter- having grown up in the United States?

Something I face often is the misconception that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arab. However, they are not the same or, in my opinion, even similar. Being Arab or from the Middle East is a culture and Islam is a religion. While the two can coincide, they do not have much of a relation to one another.

What is the role of religion in your life?

Having a sense of religion helps me with difficulties I face on a day-to-day basis, and I am thankful to my parents who raised me in a household that incorporated religion in most aspects of my life. While I will be the first to admit that I am no model Muslim, my relationship with the God I believe in is the most important thing to me. I don’t think that the black and white version of a faith is what defines a person—their spirituality and connection with their God is what matters. It is a shame that these misconceptions and prejudices leads people to commit hateful crimes against those who look, speak, or dress a certain way. While it saddens me to see such hate in the world, it lifts my spirits to know that the interfaith movement is widespread and that there is hope to end hate and intolerance.

How does being both Muslim and American inform your perspective of the Interfaith movement?

I think the combination of being American and Muslim has helped me become more optimistic about the interfaith movement. I think the interfaith movement will have more of an impact because this generation is more inclusive. Generations only become more tolerant, so it fosters a positive place for the coming together of various faiths, religions, and cultures. In my opinion, we are less clingy to traditional views, and more open to new people, traditions, and ideas. I believe the younger generation sees the world through a different lens than those who raised us. Our previous generation paved the pathway for change, and with the current generation’s open-mindedness, I think greatness can happen.

What evidence of change and greatness do you see happening?

I have my mother to largely thank for my understanding of how much a group of people can impact a community. She was one of the five founding partners of an all female Muslim law firm. At the time I was in 9th grade and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s accomplishments but mine, but now that I’m older and my professional dreams have evolved from an actress to a lawyer, I have come to realize and appreciate all that she has done to further the tolerance of the Muslim community, and for women around the world.

What is your hope for the future of the interfaith movement?

As a member of a generation that is incredibly open and honest, I am happy to see a strong stance against hate and intolerance.

Who embodies the hope of a stronger interfaith movement to you?

I think Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old who stood up for the educational rights of women and was consequently shot by the Taliban, is an amazing example of sticking up for what you believe in, despite the hurdles that may come your way. Malala, along with countless other young women working towards common goals, teaches us what we’re up against- and how strong we can be if we come together for a common cause. We have a long way to go with countless bumps ahead of us, but I’m confident that the interfaith movement will lead to a hate-free and more tolerant world.

Parliament Celebrating Anniversaries At ‘Living Out The Vision’

Dear Friends,

120 years ago leaders from religions east and west came together at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions with a vision for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. And the Interfaith Movement was birthed.

It took another 100 years to hold the second Parliament; that event broke down barriers, included groups formerly left out, and attendees committed to work towards a world without wars, hate, and discrimination by signing a pioneering Global Ethic.

CPWR is celebrating the 120th and 20th Anniversary of this vision on November 16th in Chicago, and framing the future towards the vision, with a benefit program & dinner to ensure the ongoing work of the Parliament. Please lend your support with your donation of spirit and resources. We hope you can share with us on November 16 as we celebrate:

Living Out the Vision

4:00 p.m. Renewing the Vision:  Reflections on the 1893 Parliament and the 1993 Global Ethic
Featured panelists including the esteemed:

  • Dr. Martin Marty
  • Dr. Allison Stokes
  • and the first Executive Director of CPWR, Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibáñez

6:00 p.m. Benefit Dinner  
Recognizing Our Leaders, Celebrating The Future

Chicago Sinai Congregation
15 West Delaware Place
Chicago, IL

To Purchase Individual $150 Tickets Please Visit The Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversary Benefit or send your check to CPWR Attn: Stephen Avino, 70 E. Lake Street Suite 205, Chicago, IL 60601.

What a promising time to move into a shared dynamic future with your support. We look forward to sharing with you this November 16. To learn more about purchasing a table, becoming a sponsor, and/or becoming a benefactor of CPWR, Living Out The Vision, please contact Brian Savage. Development Associate at or 312-629-2990.
  • Benefactor: $5000
  • Sponsor: $1000
  • Table Sponsorship (10 tickets): $1200
Desire to share in the spirit of this momentous anniversary? Please consider giving in support of CPWR carrying on the work towards that vision, convening major interfaith events, connecting people through newsletters and social media, developing model programs like Sharing Sacred Space and training groups through Ambassadors and Faiths Against Hate.Warm Regards,

Dr. Mary Nelson
Executive Director

Chardhi Kala One Year After Oak Creek: Sikh Faith Healing Community (VIDEO)

“Turning Tragedy Into Triumph”
Oak Creek, Wisconsin
August 3, 2013
In memory of those lost August 5, 2012

One year after a hate-motivated gun massacre  August 5, 2012, at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI., took the lives of six and critically wounded four more, a profound faith is working in mysterious ways. Devastating is a word falling short to fully describe that assault on the dignity of life. Through heartache and victimization of the worst kind, the Sikh community survives, heals, and empathizes with unity through their sacred practice of Chardhi Khala, maintaining  eternal optimism no matter what strikes. In that spirit, the community invites all to act on their solidarity and join a 6k  walk and run on August 3, 2013, to practice Chardhi Kala in memorial.

Trying to grasp this in text might be difficult.  This isn’t easy either, but important, to honor those lost and those still healing, to watch the short film “One Year Later” and understand the social consequences when hate running rampant meets a violence-plagued country. Join the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in identifying what interfaith can do to empower us all to transform hate into loving neighborly relationships  From online to on the ground: Chicago,  Long Island, New York, and soon to this very gurdwara.

In honor of the six lives lost on August 5, 2012, and the millions of “others” who died for their differences. 

Watch Sikhs One Year Later on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

California Declares October “Hindu Appreciation Month”

Photo: Hindu American Foundation

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions congratulates the Hindu American Foundation on their successful campaign to make October the Hindu-American Awareness and Appreciation Month in the state of California. In a release from HAF Press, State Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, was interviewed about her recent work to bring Resolution SCR 32 to a vote. ”As the Senator representing the 10th State Senate District, I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans,” said Majority Leader Corbett. “California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature. I thank my colleagues for supporting SCR 32 today that recognizes Hindu American contributions in California, as well as designates October 2013 in their honor.” The resolution was passed unanimously.

This passage marks a great interfaith triumph as, according to the release,  ”the resolution also received the support of 55 non-governmental organizations, interfaith leaders, civil rights activists, and community leaders from across the country, who previously wrote to all State Senators urging them to pass SCR 32.” As for this October, many are looking forward to the various events and opportunities for discussion as the month becomes a platform for Hindu dialogue.

For more information, please connect to The Hindu American Foundation.


Save the Date for Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversary Benefit

Come celebrate with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions!

We are gathering to commemorate the birth of Interfaith in Chicago, the 1893 and 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and to honor the passion and work of new interfaith leaders today. Join us as we honor old friendships and build new ones for a bright and peaceful future!

Questions? Please contact Molly Horan,

Independence Day Celebrates Leap Of Interfaith

Special distinguished contributor to the Parliament newsletter, Martin E. Marty is a Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. A prolific author, Marty is kmown as “The Dean of Religious History” in the United States. A prolific author, Marty continues to lead conversations on pressing socio-religious issues in contemporary historical contexts. He is the writer of the popular “Sightings” column.

by Martin E. Marty

On July 4, 1776, thirteen colonies on the East Coast of what became the United States declared independence from mother England, thus giving citizens ever since a great occasion. Their act represented only a beginning of an experiment with which citizens have been tampering and venturing ever since. Those who celebrate religious diversity and pluralism especially have good reasons to join the celebration, but they are not helped by those who see both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as finished products, faultless documents written by titans who knew exactly what to do about the religion of Others. (Let me henceforth capitalize that as a kind of technical term).

Thus debates over whether America was founded as a “Christian Nation,” whether it is one today, whether it must be one tomorrow, and whether “secularists” are taking over or have taken over, color much argument in these times of intense political polarization. Such debates, though in differing forms and waged by diverse casts of characters, tend to start on the foundation of a notion held by many, that we have simply fallen from and lost the perfect solutions of the Founders. (Let me capitalize that word, too.) More fruitful are debates which reflect an observation that the Founders “solved the religious problem by not solving the religious problem.”

They could not have “solved” it, and we cannot either. But they could creatively address it, and many of them did in ways that we can celebrate on Independence Day.

Their problem, as old as human history, was how to live with and deal with the Other, the individual or group that was different from their own. The drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution wrestled with the problem all through their subsequent lives. Some did try to evade it by pretending it away, chiefly by celebrating their own belief-system or religious community as being superior, if not perfect, and then excluding and opposing the Other. Most colonists who came from the British Isles or places like the Netherlands, dominated, and therefore in nine of the thirteen colonies “established” religion by law, and maintained it with coercive force.

Most of the signers of the Declaration were unfamiliar with, uneasy with, or simply “anti-“ those who were the Other. Benjamin Franklin, who has the reputation of being most tolerant, according to his biographer David Freeman Hawke “welcomed neither felons, Negroes, Catholics, nor Germans flooding into Pennsylvania.”

Why should Pennsylvania,” he asked, “founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?” Needless to say, he later moderated those views. Thomas Jefferson, the other signer equally admired by pro-tolerance, interfaith-favoring citizens, in public voiced disturbing views of Native American religion and, in private, unsettling views of the Other, including those held by orthodox Christians. Yet he left a legacy worthily celebrated each July 4 and the 364 other days of our years.

What happened to bring about change? To answer that question is to begin to publicize the need for and the value of inter-faith relations in a time when Muslims and “immigrants” and others often play the role of the Other. The first fact about the majority of the colonial Founders, being English and Protestant, was that in the colonies they had never met the Other. For one example out of many; outside Maryland and Pennsylvania they would never meet Catholics. How did change come about? They began to know those whose religions were strange to them, beginning in colonies like Pennsylvania. They had to make common causes with the Other to win the War of Independence. They began to read texts by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others whose views of the Other later turned out to be more helpful and even world-changing. Through two centuries they fashioned movements and organizations to advance what came to be called “interfaith dialogue.” They changed because of interfaith marriages, mass media imates—let it be said—and their mobility from isolated existence to pluralist communities, etc. etc.

Every Independence Day more of the Others bump into each other and face common problems. They, we, have begun to learn that religion factors into most inter-group and many inter-personal encounters, and find new reasons to converse with and seek to understand the Other who, today, maybe one’s daughter-in-law, college room mate, fellow Democrat or Republican, and neighbor, all of whom get to address religion in a republic whose founders did not solve “the religious problem” but who came to face it often in ways that are rich in promise to us who celebrate July 4 once more.