Whether it was finding the solid ground in writing the Declaration of Independence that would justify and drive a revolution or defining the core rights that would guide the crafting for our Constitution, our Founding Fathers held firmly to core principles that would help them navigate through unchartered waters.
Every improvement is the result of change, but not every change is an improvement. Our Founding Fathers had to find a compass to give them a true north as they sorted through the choices and changes our emerging country faced.
After more than two centuries, it is understandable that our citizens and leaders can find themselves on autopilot. We honor our founding documents by putting them on the wall or in a vault. But in our abundance and arrogance, it's far too easy to ignore them in making the current decisions that are shaping our country's future. Unfortunately, core rights and liberties are being lost in the name of "transformational change."
Russ Walden was a CEO who knew the power of a page. He would claim that if you can't write on one page the principles that define you as a leader, you will likely be rudderless in a rapidly changing world. His one page of core statements served him well. He would use it making tough decisions. He would share it with others as they came on to his team--"They deserved to know how I made decisions before they took the job."
I couldn't help but wonder what might have been on the page our Founding Fathers would have crafted to guide them through the decisions they made in those early years. Here's my guess on what might have been on their page:
Never let the force of a majority take away the rights of an individual.
Establish no right that is not given to all equally or that obligates another citizen for anything more than non-interference.
Measure the success of government, not by how many services it provides, but by how many citizens are free and effective in meeting their own needs.
Never sacrifice tomorrow's liberties for today's temporary needs for security.
Protect the property rights of citizens to enjoy and control the fruits of their own labor and investments.
Refuse to expend the money of constituents for benevolence best done by individual charities or local governments.
Promote and preserve a sound, free-enterprise economy and protect economic freedoms--the freedom to work, the freedom to enjoy the rewards one earns, the freedom to own and control one's property, and the freedom to participate in a free market.
Protect the right of individual self-defense, the spirit of resistance in defense of liberty, and the right to bear arms.
Protect "we the people" from the abuse of government by creating checks and balances between branches that prevent hasty change, unnecessary regulations, or government tyranny.
Ensure and promote the free expression of religion without ever establishing any state religion or denomination.
Ensure freedom of speech that allows people to criticize their government, express unpopular opinions, or even express offensive comments without fear of government reprisal or criminal persecution.
Establish, fund and maintain a vibrant and effective military force appropriate for the time and the threat that preserves the security of our country.
Finally, ensure that all citizens, from the poorest to the richest, will equally pay their fair share of the cost of maintaining our Constitutional Republic--freedom isn't free.
Our Founding Fathers are not around to endorse or sign this list, and I'm sure they would amend, delete and add to what I have written. But what is clear is that too many of our leaders today would run from this list like they do from Washington when tough work needs to be done to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for generations to come.