As I go about my work of helping communities, I’m reminded that the foundations that built this country are still important today. 

It’s long been said that America is all about rugged individualism, and that is true to some extent, but self-sufficiency only takes one so far. People need people in order to really live, and nowhere is that more true than in communities. 

Back when our ancestors landed on our shores, they didn’t head off into the woods to build a log cabin single-handedly. No, they banded together in small communities. They worked together, struggled together, cried together, and celebrated together. They shared what they had when they could — and expected others to do the same for them when they needed help. 

Early Americans had to live this way. Otherwise, they would never have survived in this unfamiliar, unforgiving land. 

Today, something very similar is happening. We’re in the middle of a massive community revitalization movement. Across America, cities and towns of all sizes are looking to reinvent themselves after a long, hard recession and several chaotic decades that turned their world upside down. 

Community leaders, business owners and residents are deeply engaged and working together to breathe new life into our downtowns. We’re encouraging entrepreneurs to start new ventures. We’re choosing to eat, drink, play and shop locally. We’re showing up at street festivals, volunteering, and supporting the institutions that feed, educate and heal our community. 

As I look to communities that are thriving, one thing is certain. We are still the land of opportunity. People are finding they can still start a business, make a living and provide jobs to others. While a strong local government is part of every vibrant community, in most cases private industry is the backbone. Thriving local business communities lead to long-term prosperity. 

I believe real independence is about working hard, playing hard, building strong relationships with family and friends, and being happy in the place we’ve put down our roots. It’s about choosing the kind of life we want to live. For the most part, this can exist only in the context of community. 

On this Independence Day take a moment to be grateful for your community and reflect on what you might do to make it better. Get involved. Find a cause that speaks to you. Share your ideas. Join together with like-minded neighbors and work to make something happen. 

The spirit of community is the spirit that built America. And it’s what will rebuild us as we work together to create our future.

Quint Studer is author of “Building a Vibrant Community” and founder of the nonprofit Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute, studeri.org. He is a businessman, a visionary, an entrepreneur, a mentor to many and serves as the

Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of West Florida.

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