Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit …
“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.”
So begins the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain signed by the United States Congress on July 4, 1776. We in the US, celebrate July 4th as Independence Day this weekend with festivities, fireworks, picnics and devotionals to those whose lives were dedicated and often taken to secure these unalienable rights. In fact, the words could serve as anthem to peoples all over the world as a never ending objective and pursuit.
The instrument declared states as the independent parties, and in doing so established, “that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”
The Declaration of Independence was a consequence of a people rebelling against abuses with no responsiveness to appeals or due recourse for resolution. It is interesting to recognize that the only activity specified that is specific to an individual is the right to establish commerce. The document enumerates abuses by the Crown and intolerable and unendurable behaviors and, not surprisingly, many can be traced to actions to serve commercial objectives, those of the Crown and to the detriment of the colonists. (It took a subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights to establish governance.) But, to continue the thread, business strategies are in fact conquest strategies and occupation strategies, and governments align to these to different degrees. Political colonies have typically as occupation entities to be harvested.
The consequences of the boldness of the Declaration of Independence and subsequent execution have enabled many of us to pursue happiness, enjoy liberty, and create life with hope. Three important dimensions are forever present in my mind:
1. Declaration was followed by sacrifice and vigilance to earn the liberties and the responsibilities to sustain them. Declaring that we are or we will be better or great can warm the tummy for a bit, but it is execution and on-going management that makes it real. Projects exist to create processes and processes must manage to the objectives of the entities. This applies to governance of individuals, organizations, enterprises, societies, religious orders, groups, and nations.
2. As the world changes and our prosperities grow, our opportunities are a powerful magnet for others seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although many believe that these rights come as a consequence of national versus global birth, perhaps through education or lack thereof, it is the right to earn them that effectively determines what we do and whether life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is achieved.
3. The first two create obligations and responsibilities, societal and commercial. Recognizing the unalienable rights do not come as a geographical or political birthright … not because of where we were born, but rather, because you were born is important, particularly if we are to be civil in our behaviors among our global community. We must not act in a way that denies the right to the pursuit of opportunity to earn happiness, personal or commercial, simply because we can at this point in time.
I cherish the opportunities life in the United States brings every day, and am grateful that my loved ones can pursue their own dreams. I honor and respect those that live and die daily to protect these opportunities and am ashamed of those that deny them to others, here or abroad.
Today, independence is more complex, perhaps because prosperity has redefined for many what the pursuit of happiness is or ought to be. Somehow, I find it is easier to find clarity in challenging times, and rewarding to reflect on the earned independence we enjoy and the responsibility to continue to earn and never deny.