A Lesson About Lemonade

Nothing says, “Hello Summer!” or “Happy 4th!” like an ice cold glass of lemonade. Not only is it one of America’s favorite beverages, but it is also a sweet one, both for your mouth, and for your memories (for mine anyway…haha!) My fondest recollections of lemonade were having one of those classic lemonade stands as a child with some of my friends in the third grade, using the money to help build houses for families in Honduras with my elementary school. Nothing brings a community together more than a good old lemonade stand, and today, let’s learn about how lemonade has been used as both a pop music phenomenon and a symbol for poverty alleviation.

Lemonade and History

While the lemons first appeared in Asia (northern Burma and China), the first evidence of lemonade was found in Egypt around the 12th century from the writings of the Persian poet, Nasir-I-Khusraw. The earliest versions of lemonade were known as “qatarzimat,” which was a mixture of lemon juice and sugar sold in Cairo markets. By the 13th century, Egyptians started concocting a different kind of beverage, a lemon-syrup mixture, to which the Mongols later added alcohol.

By the 16th century, the non-alcoholic honey version of the drink made its way to the street vendors in Paris, calling themselves “limonaders.” Other European countries soon followed suit and by the 18th century, lemonade had found its way into American culture. During the Victorian Era, First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes became a major player in the rise of lemonade’s popularity in the United States. She was given the nickname “Lemonade Lucy” from 1877 to 1881 around the White House since she banned alcohol on the premesis throughout her husband’s time in office, instead promoting lemonade as a more suitable alternative.

Today, while most of the world’s lemon production comes from India Mexico, China, Argentina, and Brazil, America can thank California for supplying 90 percent of its lemons for lemonade production. Pretty sweet, huh?

Lemonade and Politics

Ever since the rise of Beyonce’s hit, “Lemonade,” the album pops into the heads of many whenever the beverage is served or brought up. More importantly, people like to talk about the messages behind what the “Lemonade” album represents; a defiance of the stereotypes of black female beauty, a protest against police brutality, and most importantly, perseverance. In fact, the album was largely dedicated to Jay-Z’s grandmother, who always said, “life gave me lemons, but I made lemonade.”

It is this exact quote that many Americans live by, and as we celebrate Independence Day and what it means to be American, we must now ask ourselves…Given the current political climate, how can we improve the lives of those who are impoverished so they can live in “the pursuit of happiness”?

First, let’s look at what “the pursuit of happiness” actually means; according to the Merriam-Webster Legal Dictionary, it is defined as “An inalienable right enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, in addition to life and liberty; the right to pursue any legal activity as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.” The reason why this inalienable right has not been upheld to the extent that it was intended to be, and the explanation for why people in poverty remain stuck in that cycle for so long is because the centralized financial systems put into place, such as welfare, cut off people’s benefits immediately after they reach a certain amount of income, which disables them from being able to get back on their feet and have enough money to pay for those benefits they lost. Therefore, people are often trapped in the welfare system because the state will not allow them to earn enough money to be self-sufficient before losing the basic benefits needed to be secure and gain financial independence…put simply, depending on government assistance is better for low-income people than getting a job. This concept is an example of our government infringing on people’s rights to live freely without limits (other than leaving people unharmed), or their pursuit of happiness. For further information, see the video below:


A resolution to this problem would be to rely on private charities to provide low-income people with the direct help and resources they need rather than to be merely given a check from the government. Charities are able to divide their staff and distribute resources of value according to people’s needs due to the less bureaucratic leadership structures. In contrast, government has large groups of public officials advocating for diverse individuals’ needs through sending money as opposed to getting directly involved in the causes because the governmental management structure is far more bureaucratic than that of these smaller groups in private charities. With a private, less centralized leadership structure, charities can maintain a high level of effectiveness by having more control over keeping the workers who use resources most efficiently and getting rid of the ones who fail to meet people’s needs in the best way.

While a major issue is that charities often rely on the government for funding, having to comply with its strict rules before getting any of their goals accomplished, a few solutions that have been proposed to alleviate this problem. One of these solutions would be to not only make charitable donations tax deductible, but also make the amount donated (within limits) deducted out of their actual taxes as well. One of The Cato Institute’s scholars, Arnold King, suggests that if the given charitable donation limit were, for example, $20,000, then that amount could be taken out of their taxes so that the after-tax cost of the donation would be zero. For low-income people who make less than the charitable limit, they could either have the option of paying their income taxes or donating an equivalent amount of money to charity. Similar concepts, such as a dollar off taxes for every dollar donated, have also been proposed.

Just as our Founding Fathers would have wanted it, private individuals can have a much bigger impact on social change than bureaucrats can.

Lemonade and Pop Culture

As referenced above, Beyonce’s controversial hit album, “Lemonade,” alludes to persevering through the times “when life gives you lemons,” challenges the ideals of black female beauty, and speaks out against youth violence. From Serena Williams, to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to The Weeknd, to Diplo, to Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce’s star studded collaborations on the album have turned lemonade into quite a versatile symbol for social change. Purchase the album here. Happy 4th, my friends! Let freedom ring! xoxo

Party Lemonade


Photo/Recipe Credit: Royalty Free


12 Lemons, Thinly Sliced

3 Cups White Sugar

4 Trays Ice Cubes

8 Cups Cold Water


Prep: 15 minutes

Ready: 15 minutes

  1. Thinly slice lemons crosswise. Try to remove as many seeds as possible. Put lemon slices into a large punch bowl. Pour sugar over the top of the lemons. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, pound lemons and sugar mixture until sugar is dissolved and lemon slices are broken.
  2. Add ice cubes and stir in cold water. Serve in tall glasses.