Editor's Note: John McCarthy is the executive director of SCOPE and is one of our region's public innovators. 

While driving to the beach this weekend, a glance in the rear-view mirror may reveal more than what is behind us – and shed some light on what connects us today and in the future. Two-hundred and forty years ago, our nation’s founders expressed their deepest aspirations in a document that serves as the “birth certificate” of our great country. As we approach another Fourth of July weekend - the annual celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence - we are reminded of those community ideals in the words drafted by Thomas Jefferson, refined by the Committee of Five and adopted on July 41776, by the Second Continental Congress:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While aspirations are about looking forward – not looking back, it is amazing to me how commonly held fundamental aspirations have not changed dramatically after more than two hundred years.

With our training from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, and the continuous learning environment provided by The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Actions initiative, we have reached out to listen deeply to the aspirations of dozens of individuals in our community. In many cases, these listening sessions reveal that the aspirations of our nation’s founders still ring true today. Much of what we have heard fits neatly within the framework of our founders’ guiding words.

Equal – To transcend economic status, ethnicity, race, geography and gender. To have access to opportunity, to education, to employment, to justice and a better life for our children and their children.

Life – To be safe and secure in our homes and in our neighborhoods, our schools and in our parks and playgrounds. To be vibrant and healthy. To be engaged with others in our faith and in our communities.

Liberty – To be free to learn and grow and obtain a quality education and to find our purpose in life. To chart our own course and follow our dreams. To be the best that we can be for ourselves and for others.

Happiness – To experience joy with our families and our friends and our neighbors. To fully experience our precious lives. To share lovingly that which we have to share, while we are here to share it.

Certainly, different groups and different people in different conditions and different times express their aspirations in different words. They find different obstacles and discover different opportunities. But at the core, it seems Thomas Jefferson’s carefully crafted words were not as simple and random as they were insightful and intentional. Clearly these were not his feelings alone, but instead were the aspirations that resonated and reverberated amongst the conversations of those who dared to create a better community – a new nation to be founded on the concept of liberty and justice for all.

photo credit: 4th of July Parade 2015 via photopin (license)


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