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Late in the evening on Dec. 16, 1773, more than 100 people boarded ships in Boston Harbor. Members of the Sons of Liberty had a plan: stop chests of tea located on the ships Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor from being unloaded – by any means necessary. By the next morning, the harbor had been turned into a teapot, with more than 90,000 pounds of Wuyi, Souchong and Congou teas thrown out of their chests and into the water.

OPINION

Whether or not the event that came to be known as the “Boston Tea Party” was the pivotal occurrence that put the colonists of British America and their motherland on the path to armed conflict is a debate historians have engaged in for centuries. What is not debatable is that the Boston Tea Party remains a signature moment in American history. 

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Today is the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, and it should be a cause of celebration for all Americans.

Yesterday I donned my George Washington costume and served coffee to dozens of parents at MAST during arrival. I chose coffee because it was the drink that many colonists switched to after the adoption of the Tea Act in May 1773. (John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 6, 1774, that after a innkeeper refused to serve any customers tea, “I have drank Coffee every Afternoon since, and have borne it very well. Tea must be universally renounced.”). 

The parents were incredibly grateful. The students enjoyed a laugh and smile at my get-up. And the opportunity to teach our community about this important anniversary was the greatest joy. 

I am privileged to serve as a 12th grade government teacher at MAST Academy on Virginia Key. I am also a member of the Miami Chapter of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution. In both these roles, today’s anniversary and the approaching Semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in July 2026 offer an opportunity to engage my students and the broader community with our shared history and heritage.

In my classroom, I do my best to bring the lessons of our past to life. It only makes sense, then, to try to take these important lessons outside the classroom walls and into our community.

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American politics is described as polarized so often the term has become cliché. Older generations lament the civic education of today’s children and teenagers. Those teens view older Americans in power with more than a skeptical eye. It can be so very hard to bring Americans together on anything. That’s why I feel taking a moment to celebrate days like today is so important. It would be amazing if my students developed as deep of a love of American history and government as I have. 

I recognize, however, that these topics are not everyone’s forte. But no matter your age, your political beliefs, or even your time spent in America, you most likely know about the Boston Tea Party. It’s a shared language, a touchstone that nearly every American can connect with and think critically about.

Sometimes when I tell my students about my Patriot ancestor, John Biggs, the reaction is that I am somehow “more American.” In reality, I point out that my students – so many of them first- or second-generation immigrants – have had a much more “American” experience than I. 

John Biggs was born in Great Britain and migrated to British America with hopes of a better life. So did James Swan and William Molineux, two key members of the Sons of Liberty in Boston and participants in the Tea Party. 

Our history is meant for all Americans. It must be shared as broadly as possible, to continue building those connections with citizens old and new. The success of recent collaborations between history and pop culture, like the musical Hamilton, shows that there is a hunger for Americans of all stripes to learn more about their history in new and unexpected ways.

That’s why I dressed in an uncomfortable costume and handed out cold coffee in the driving rain on Friday, and why I will absolutely continue to find novel ways to engage the public with the events leading up to and beyond the semiquincentennial.

The Key Biscayne Independent welcomes editorial submissions from its readers. 

Matthew Bunch

MATTHEW BUNCH  is a social sciences teacher at MAST Academy on Virginia Key, where he focuses on government and economics as well as advising the student newspaper, The Beacon. He is the state of Florida's James Madison Fellow for 2022.

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MATTHEW BUNCH  is a social sciences teacher at MAST Academy on Virginia Key, where he focuses on government and economics as well as advising the student newspaper, The Beacon. He is the state of Florida's...