WMU News

A toast to life, liberty and all the rest

July 1, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Since the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, patriots of all kinds have used the Fourth of July as an opportunity to raise their glasses and toast American values.

Dr. Joseph G. Reish, dean of the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University and an expert on patriotic toasts, notes that many of the sayings still resonate, especially as the nation faces a new threat to its security.

"During the Fourth of July festivities, newspapers would collect toasts that were given at various events, and then print them over the coming weeks," says Reish, who has collected toasts from around southwest Michigan and the nation given between 1776 and the mid-1850s. "Anything could be an occasion for a toast--a banquet, a picnic, a fireworks display. These toasts were the first sound bites, long before we had the technology to relay them."

Historically, patriotic toasts have run the gamut from deeply serious to funny, from long-winded to curt. Reish's favorites include: "To the heroes of the revolution: champions in the turnout for freedom. Their splendid works are registered in history as a guide to posterity"; "Perpetual itching without benefit of scratching to the enemies of America"; "To the three greatest generals: General Peace, General Plenty and General Satisfaction"; and from Kalamazoo in 1853, "To our village: Is there anyplace in Michigan but Kalamazoo?"

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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