The Power of an Idea

By: Carl | July 2, 2010, 11:29 am

I was recently asked by a national organization to address our founding as part of a project they’re doing on perspectives from around the country. It seems like a good idea so thought I’d share my response. I’ll try to remember to post the link to the entire project when it’s complete.


What do you think was the most important idea of the Founders?


The Founders’ most important idea was to believe in the power of ideas. They knew that a nation had to be bigger than any single person or a place; that there had to be something to embody and to propel a people forward or they would lapse into tyranny or anarchy. That “something” was the idea that we all have a basic inalienable right to seek happiness and fulfillment in any way that doesn’t deny the opportunity for others to do the same. This not only produced a very simple rule book in the form of a constitution that protects rather than grants rights, but it created a system where individuals are rewarded for productive, innovative, and moral behavior rather than for birthrights or bloodlust.


A system based on ideas is also welcoming to anyone who shares those values regardless of skin color, religion, or means. It opens its arms to the most innovative and productive people to not just share but to participate in the prosperity and the governance of a nation that’s ruled by law, governed by principle, and led by ideas. Our shining city on the hill has lost much of its luster as we’ve become lazy and confuse equality of outcome with equality of opportunity. But we are still united by a set of ideas and ideals that the Founders passed down. Our success or failure will be determined by how well we honor their vision.

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