Hope everyone has a happy and safe one. As a military brat, 4th of July held a special significance though truth be told, it's was all about grilled hot dogs and fireworks for years for me. As I have grown older, the amazing vision of our Founding Fathers has become clearer and our nations impact on the world, truly amazing.
The Great Experiment
As we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July, our nation faces her greatest internal challenge since World War II. This time we are at war with an invisible virus as well as facing civil unrest not seen since the Viet Nam war era. What better time to reflect on the impact of the actions of men, 244 years ago with a vision which would radically change the world. Let us begin by thinking about who these men were, men we know and revere today as the Founding Fathers. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton John Jay and James Monroe just to name a few. Many of these men were landed men of significant wealth who risked their lives, their fortunes and their families lives (oh yes, the Brits would hang their families as well. They chained one church closed with several score of men women and children inside and burn it to the ground) for an obscure notion that men were "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights". The idea that men should not be governed by dictators, kings and tyrants but that the people should govern themselves. Keeping in mind that in 1776, this idea had NEVER been attempted, outside of the very small Greek City/States in the over 6 millennia we consider the history of "mankind".
Today many in our nation take the risks and vision of our Founding Fathers for granted. Sadly too many citizens seem to lack a sense of "skin in the game", rather their rights are mere birthright entitlements. Worse, they try to hold the Founding Fathers accountable for actions 244 years ago, based on modern day standards.. The reality is we have enjoyed 244 years of progress, of building upon that vision to create the freest nation today, the world has ever known. We are truly the shining city on the hill but the job is not done. Nor do I hope we ever stop striving to be a better version of oursleves. And we have no problem candidly stating the Founding Fathers did not get it 100% right out of the box, but then no organization ever does. We did not get it right out of the gates for women, slaves, Asians who would be brought to America for work on the railroads and in port cities, certainly not for our Native Americans, for the Irish, the Italians etc etc. We took in the huddled masses, we did not always treat them well but with each generation that came, we saw the individuals grow or fail, thrive, build and stamp their own culture and flair on the melting pot known as America.
For some perspective, starting in 1776 and going forward over the next 100 years, we see a world where less than 5% of the population would live in self governance::
By 1875 Less than 5% of the world would enjoy self rule
By 1918 (the end of World War I) 20% of the world would enjoy self rule
By 1940, just before the start of World War II, that number would fall to less than 15%
By 1949, just after World War II, the number of nations enjoying self rule spikes to over 35%
By 1988, Reagan demanded the USSR "Tear down this wall" and the cold war was won/ended, the world reached it's highest point of self rule with just over 40% of the world.
It is interesting that each jump worldwide freedom and self governance and followed America taking the lead in stopping powers bent on forcing people to live under tyrants, dictators and powers that would oppress them. These are battles paid for with the lives of American citizens and the resources of our great land.
In almost 2 and a half centuries we still see less than half the world enjoying the freedoms that our Founding Fathers envisioned, that Americans fought for and spread across the globe. . And we built this nation around the concepts of individual rights and capitalism. These two critical to America's success. But we go way beyond America's success. By exporting capitalism around the world, even in totalitarian nations like China, we have seen something else happen. Per the UN, in 1800 more than 60% of the world lived in "extreme poverty". Today that number has fallen to less than 20%. What has driven the fall? Simple, capitalism. How have we spread this? Largely based on the 3 most significant military conflicts of the last 100 years, World War I, World War II and the fight for global dominance vs the forces of Communism referred to as the Cold War. The US stood with her allies against the forces of tyranny and oppression and won each time. The by product, more nations adopting some form of self rule and with it, the opportunity capitalism brings for individuals to grow and create their own opportunities.
For 244 years, we have struggled and fought and with each passing year our nation has grown better. We have found solutions, we have banded together. You see the VERY best of us in crisis. The way we rallied around New York CIty after 9/11, the outpouring of support when New Orleans and Houston were hit with hurricanes and floods or the Northeast when Sandy hit. When northern California was ravaged by fire, cities from across the nation sent crews to help. They called them the Cajun Navy when thousands of fishermen descended upon Houston with their flat bottom boats with one thought in their hearts, help fellow Americans. They did not ask about race or creed, they simply rushed to help without orders or even requests.
This is America at her best when we step up to try and fix problems. We are at our worst when we try to tear things down. Remember the incredible vision of our Founding Fathers as we watch fireworks explode. Remember the sacrifices of our men and women who answered the call to serve our nation. Be they in the military, be they our law enforcement officers and firemen who without thought to their own safety, walk into harm's way to bring aid. And we remember another too often over looked group, those healthcare workers trying to heal the wounds and the ills that threaten us today.
Forgive me for my unabashed and unashamedly cheerleading of our Shining City on the Hill. As I get older and reflect on travels across the world, to visits in 3rd world nations where people no longer live under the yoke of tyranny, I am forever thankful that our Founding Fathers risked everything, their lives their families and their fortune to embark on what we now call "The Great Experiment"