You and We the People: Living to Make a Difference

One useless man is a disgrace, two are a law firm, and three or more are a Congress.

John Adams in the musical 1776

Although its problems and follies measure up to its potential, the United States is the world’s last and best hope for creating a just, sustainable future. How the signing of the Declaration of Independence came about will help you appreciate the discord and oppression out of which it was forged, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

Here are two things for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them. You can watch it at  Perkins said that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we can help determine what happens in this country and the rest of the world.

A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people think the fighting is done and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose what the colonists fought for. The only successful revolution is one that never ends, one that keeps striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and the growing urgency of our problems.

The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. Benjamin Franklin warned that if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately. Hatred is a luxury humanity can’t afford. As poet W. H. Auden urged, “We must love one another or die.”

The poet T.S. Eliot said that politics is too serious to be left to politicians. America can only work if we the people keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive by striving to fulfill its dream of a free, just, independent, thriving country, willing to reach the compromises needed to balance opposing beliefs.

That is one lesson from the funny, wonderful, relevant musical, 1776, Elizabeth and I watch on the fourth. TCM shows it, and it’s also available on demand. Even this Hollywood version of a Broadway play provides timeless lessons: how divided and ineffective Congress was; the huge odds against the Declaration being signed; how one vote made the difference; and how a compromise on slavery was essential to convince southern states to sign it.

Perkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better, an idea as powerful as it is simple. More than ever before, we have the opportunity, not just to make a living, but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Web and the smartphone put the world at your fingertips.

Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down in her Pennsylvania home to write The Silent Spring about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea she was writing a bestseller that would become a classic, rid the world of DDT, and start the international environmental movement.

If you speak, write, or work in the other arts, your passion and your gift for capturing the challenges we face and proposing solutions will make a difference. But whatever you do for a living, you can make a difference.

How about writing and signing the declaration of independence from A talk would have to have a strong benefit like X things Novelists Need to Know About Laws, Lawyers & Litigation. (Clearly, I’ll say anything for alliteration.)whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that don’t help you achieve your goals. Liberating yourself will be something to celebrate every day. No matter where you are in your life or your  career, heed Anne Frank’s advice: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.” Have a happy 5th.

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Do one thing every day to make the world better.   –John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman