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Leelanau County man to read Declaration of Independence for the eighth year

The Leelanau Enterprise

Many people celebrate the Fourth of July by attending parades and watching fireworks. A Leelanau man celebrates by reading the Declaration of Independence to community members.


After reading the Declaration of Independence in the Leelanau Enterprise before bed on July 3, 2014, Rink Smith told his wife he needed to share the document with others in the community.


“I hadn't read it for some time. I mean, you know, for years, and I just was so impressed with the document,” Smith said. “It’s history, the richness of the level of English, that these erudite forefathers of ours could use, make such wonderful sentences and convey such profound thoughts.”


Smith thought that since a common way of communication was riding horseback into towns to read notices in the town square, that was likely how the Declaration of Independence was first shared. With that assumption, he continued to narrow places of public awareness down, until he came to the idea of post office.


On the Fourth of July in front of the Omena Post Office, Smith read the Declaration of Independence to his wife, and a married couple with their two older children, each with a friend, leaving breakfast at the restaurant next door.


Although he only had seven audience members the first year, Smith went back out the next year and read to a slightly larger crowd. After his reading, Smith was approached by Jim Anderson, an old family friend, who suggested the reading expand to all nine post offices within Leelanau County.


“This will be the sixth year of doing all nine post offices in the county,” Smith said.


The two men split up the nine post offices to organize, Anderson takes the four on the west side of the county and Smith takes the rest.


“I fear that our heritage as a nation is rapidly forgetting that we were founded as a republic, not as a democracy as commonly thought,” Anderson said. “We must not forget the patriots who gave everything so that we might have the freedoms that we have today.”


Each year, they find community members who volunteer to read the Declaration of Independence at 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July at all nine locations.


“The attendance isn't what I'd like it to be,” Smith said. “People just, you know, people kind of are clueless, almost about the reason for the day.”

Courtney produced this story as part of the Michigan News Group internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight community newspapers. You can read the print version of this story in this week’s edition of the Leelanau Enterprise.