Washington: Throughout history, the Fourth of July has been a day for some presidents to declare their independence from the public. They’ve bailed to the beach, the mountains, the golf course, the farm, the ranch. In the middle of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt was sailing to Hawaii on a fishing and working vacation.
It’s also been a day for some presidents to insert themselves front and center in the fabric of it all.
Teddy Roosevelt drew hundreds of thousands for his July Fourth oratory. In 2019, Donald Trump marshaled tanks, bombers and other war machinery for a celebration that typically avoids military muscle.
George W. Bush had a ceremony welcoming immigrants as new citizens. Barack Obama threw a South Lawn barbecue for troops. Bill Clinton went to the shores of Chesapeake Bay to watch a young bald eagle named Freedom be released to the wild.
In 2021, Joe Biden gathered more than 1,000 people on the White House South Lawn to eat burgers and watch fireworks. That event was noteworthy because such gatherings were unthinkable in the first year of the pandemic. Many wished Biden had not thought of doing it even then — the rampage of the omicron COVID-19 variant was still to come.
Still, the burgers were an improvement from July 4, 1850, when Zachary Taylor wolfed down apparently spoiled cherries and milk and died five days later.
Here is a look at what some presidents have done on the Fourth of July:
1987: Ronald Reagan, at Camp David, makes a straight political statement in his holiday radio address, pitching an economic “bill of rights” and Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. On a Saturday, it served as his weekly radio address, which he and other modern presidents used for their agendas.
2008: Bush, like several presidents before him, hosts a naturalization ceremony. More than 70 people from 30 countries are embraced as new citizens.
2010: Obama brings 1,200 service members to the South Lawn for a barbecue. The father of a July Fourth baby, Malia, he would joke that she always thought the capital fireworks were for her.
2012: Obama combines two Fourth of July traditions — celebrating troops and new citizens — by honoring the naturalization of U.S. military members who came to the country as immigrants.
2017: Trump goes to his golf club, then hosts a White House picnic for military families.
2021: Biden tells a crowd on the South Lawn that “we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” It was the largest event of his presidency since taking office. COVID-19 cases and deaths had dipped to or near record lows at that point but would rebound as the omicron variant spread.
2023: Biden plans to host a barbecue and holiday celebration at the White House for members of the military, veterans and their families.