July 4th, 2016 - 240 Years Later

AS I am sitting here, at the crack of o’clock, I am looking at the 4th of July weekend.  It has become a weekend for visiting friends and family, having parades, fireworks and acting as a midsummer weekend off.  People take off to their families, babies are born and people pass on.  The world remains a dangerous place—a cautionary tale.

I would like to take you back to a different place and a different time----Philadelphia in 1776.  A hot, steamy, sweaty city in a meeting hall.  Men had gathered from the “colonies”.  They had come together to petition a King.  A king, who lived thousands of miles away, a man who was badly advised by people who knew nothing of these colonies except that they were troublesome, and paid a lot in taxes and levies.  History writes that this King, George III, was also battling periodic bouts of insanity.

These men, on one hot July day, placed their names on a piece of paper—one, John Hancock, allegedly said, “My signature should be large enough for King George to read without his spectacles.”  They pledged their lives, their wealth and, most importantly, their honor.  They had no idea what the future contained.  This Declaration of Independence was dispatched throughout the Colonies.  This paper became a blueprint for a gathering cloud of people who wanted to be free.  This Declaration of Independence was a promise made to a group of people, and colonies, of what would become the United States of America.

We were a country born of hope, adventure, bravery, a land populated with people who were led by daring, forward thinking men.  Most were ordinary men, hardworking farmers, small merchants, craftsmen and artisans.  But they shared a common dream.  And they passed that dream on to the world.  Their dream was incomplete and a long war began.  Volunteers from across the colonies, came and went, as they joined the Continental Army in this cause.

We have survived—and thrived.  Later, many of these same men came together again to craft a document that they hoped would make us a strong nation against the world.  We have twinkled, shone and illuminated the world.  We are not perfect, and our Founding Fathers, most imperfect.  But, as Leaders do, they did their best to present, to us, their descendants, a pathway forward.  They led.  They were not always right, but hindsight, is a great leveler.  They gave us a document—a contract between a government and its citizen.  A first in the world, at that time.  Can you imagine?

Why have I written this, on this rainy morning in Denver, Colorado?  We are in the midst of a battle---a battle, as many see, for the future of the United States.  Now, just as then, the majority of the people populating this, and the other states, are working tireless to provide for their families, fulfill their responsibilities and to give their children a future.  Our leadership mulls its best interest.  Sometimes, as in 1776, it seems that the leadership mulls over what is the best part of THEIR interest.  The “Loyal Opposition” is coalescing around a candidate, and the “Power” is coalescing around its choice.  My crystal ball is cloudy, but I see mud, dirt, insults, compliments flying.  Just as they did in 1776. 

In a few days, we will celebrate the promise, as written in 1776.  When I read the Declaration of Independence, it sends chills up and down my spine. It makes me wonder, if those men, in that steamy, hot, uncomfortable men truly understood what they did---not just for that moment.  I doubt it.  Moments of greatest leadership ALWAYS come out of ordinary actions.

So, my friends and colleagues, family and friends, Happy Independence Day.  I ask that you take a few minutes, gather those who mean the most to you, and hug them tightly.  I ask that you renew a pledge that was made many years ago by men who only, now live, in musty paintings, to the United States.  I am the first to say we are as flawed today, as we were then, but I believe, that each and every one who reads this, is capable of great things.  Dreams, Inventions, Creation.  Leadership is in the small actions we take every day.  Lead, lead proudly, and lead strongly.

Happy 4th of July, 2016.

Joy Hoffman