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In July of 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the signing of the Declaration ought to be a day of celebration in years to come, filled with parades, bonfires and fireworks. But he cautioned, “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about Independence Day lately. What does it mean to people today? Does it mean what it once did? A few decades back, when I first ventured off onto my own, and I told my friends and family, they seemed impressed. Happy for me, sure, but probably concerned, and rightly so. But I had things I wanted to accomplish, and they required my independence, turning my back on the safety and security of a job.
Some 250+ years ago, our forefathers had that same desire for independence, only in a much larger sense. These men and women were, primarily, small business people and farmers, so the freedom they sought was from tyranny – something I could hardly claim. My boss was a nice guy.
These days, there has been much talk about the idea of ‘American Exceptionalism,’ if it ever existed, and whether this country was born to greatness with a God-given destiny. Many scholars dismiss this notion. Most of the people I know in our industry embrace it.
We usually think of American Revolution in terms of our Revolutionary War. But that was not it at all. That ‘revolution’ began with the colonists coming ashore to this country with ideas of religious and personal freedom.
Once the British government inserted itself into the affairs of people in this country, often in an oppressive way, the idea of revolution simply grew. It was business, and it was personal. People felt this strongly. So, let’s take a moment and remind ourselves.
The famous line from John Paul Jones was uttered as his ship was burning and sinking, and the British had demanded his surrender: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Just a few hours later, the British surrendered.
Our citizen-soldiers and sailors did the impossible. Facing the advancing Redcoats, Capt. John Parker, at the Battle of Lexington, said, “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
This month, as we celebrate the birth of our country, let’s assure we take nothing for granted. Freedom is precious and can be fragile and fleeting, if not defended. The same goes for an independent business such as a contracting company. Pay attention or, as our forbears would urge, be vigilant.
Did you notice how the founders managed to pull off this whole, independence thing? They banded together. They networked. They formed associations, up to and including a new nation.
Paying attention to the direction the country is taking – or the direction of our industry – is no longer just a good thing to do. It’s mandatory. You won’t have to spill any new blood for this. That’s already been done for you. But we all need the power of association.
John Hancock said it well, as he wrote his name in large letters on the Declaration: “There! His Majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can double the reward on my head!”
Ben Franklin, at the Signing, said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The Signers of the Declaration knew the danger. They pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.” Many gave their lives. Most gave huge fortunes. None lost their honor. The ball is back in our court. So, ask yourself where you will put your John Hancock. Happy Independence Day, America!
Copyright 2012 Gary Micheloni