Throat Sore From Religion
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Peter Hopp

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Bush Marks July 4th at Rollicking Street Fest

by Arshad Mohammed

July 4, 2001

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Reuters) -- George W. Bush celebrated his first Fourth of July as president on Wednesday strolling through an urban block party in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy.

Joined by first lady Laura Bush, the president emerged from the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in northern Philadelphia to paint a street mural, briefly quarterback a game of touch football and showcase several faith-based groups that offer social programs, drug and alcohol support groups and after-school programs.

"I want everybody to have a great Fourth of July," Bush told the cheering crowd after he helped score a basketball "slam dunk" contest at the bustling street party. "Thank you for such warm hospitality."

With his shirt sleeves rolled up and a smile across his face, Bush exchanged handshakes, hugs and kisses with choir members as he left the church.

Bush was to later visit Independence National Historic Park -- home to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and where the Constitution was adopted in 1787 -- before heading back to Washington.

With a car repair shop on one corner and a check-cashing store on another, the neighborhood was the scene of a large party, replete with food stands, a dunking booth and organized games.

The smell of barbecued ribs in the air, Bush picked up a paintbrush to dab red paint on the stripes of an American flag on a city-sponsored street mural and donned a Philadelphia Phillies cap to pose with the Phanatic, the baseball team's green mascot.

He also played quarterback for a few plays of a touch football game played on artificial grass laid on the street.

The president was to end the holiday, which marks the 225th anniversary of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence, by watching the traditional fireworks display from the White House South Lawn.

Copyright ©2001 Reuters Limited.

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