As our family makes plans for a July 4 gathering, I’m thinking of how thankful I am for the wise founding fathers who gave us cause to celebrate. They certainly had differing opinions as we do today, but also many commonalities. Thankfully, they came together enough to break the bonds of tyranny and forge forward into the uncharted waters of freedom.
As I study these interesting characters, several golden qualities stand out to me. Attributes I can and should incorporate into my life and hope to reflect to others.
In a close search of George Washington’s, Thomas Jefferson’s and Ben Franklin’s lives, I’m taken with their intense and persistent sense of curiosity coupled with keen, intended (not casual) observation. In addition to the great experiment of studying historical civilizations to figure out what the best possibilities for a new nation might be, there was more. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin both experimented with creative ideas in the realms of science and invention. Beyond that, their extensive correspondences include inquiries on subjects as varied as efficacy of accepted medical treatments and how reading fiction might affect women’s loyalty to their families.
I particularly like the current buzz statement, “interesting people are interested people.” Isn’t this as true today as it was among our founding fathers? (Some of my favorite interesting, interested people belong to my own family!) This brings to mind a relevant quote from Eleanor Roosevelt; “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Our great multifaceted early Americans loved discussing a wide spectrum of interesting ideas and taking every opportunity to expand their knowledge in formal and self-motivated study. My job and friends offer me similar fascinating company. Plus, I love Casper’s endless buffet of opportunities and experiences for lifelong learning and involvement in our fast paced world.
To those characteristics, I would add resourcefulness. We are familiar with Ben Franklin’s kite flying experiment to capture electricity as well as his many business ventures. Tom Jefferson’s home is filled with his ingenious inventions. His horticultural interests are still evident in today’s restored gardens at Monticello, complete with his heritage seeds making a comeback. Although we think of George Washington as a plantation-owning military general and first American president, he also made use of the Potomac River’s bounty with his fishery.
Having walked the trails of Valley Forge and the streets of Philadelphia, I was immersed in the spirit of the those visionary leaders. Somehow George Washington’s courage and faith helped him lead an army of volunteers to victory. With full purpose, members of the Continental Congress and the later Constitutional Convention hammered out a vision of what a free country could be, even though it would take almost another century for slavery to end.
As we enjoyed the pleasant grounds of Washington’s Mt. Vernon, and Jefferson’s Monticello, I was more able to appreciate the sacrifice those men, and others like them, made in the service of a fledgling effort to provide freedom, not only for themselves and their own families, but ultimately for countless future generations, on our continent, and around the world. These men left homes, responsibilities, and family, caring more about the greater good, than their own wealth, success, or health.
I resonate with each of these characters in different ways. I’m deeply moved by General George Washington, who was seen humbly kneeling in prayer to seek God’s divine protection and guidance. Though my own prayers may not affect the birth of a nation, they do increase my ability to reach out in meaningful ways to family, friends, and acquaintances.
Jefferson’s love of nature, learning, and even music comes to mind as I work in our garden and spend time in my little music room, realizing that the gap of over two hundred years doesn’t diminish our common fulfillment in those and other interests.
My connections with Benjamin Franklin go beyond a passion for sharing ideas and information through print, as he did in Poor Richard’s Almanac. He also founded a study and discussion group, the Junta Club, which spawned our country’s first lending library, and more learning groups. This was a man after my own heart! Anyone who knows me, knows I love to visit and discuss. As innovative as Franklin was in his fondness for change and progress, I wonder, if he’s in heaven cheering for our speedy digital social media. Maybe I can ask him someday.
Whether in our families, workplaces, or communities, the world leaps forward in the best ways as we the people acquire and employ noble attributes of our predecessors: curiosity, observation, interest, creativity, knowledge, resourcefulness, courage, faith, vision, purpose, humility, and sacrifice for greater good. I’m in. Life is exciting. Happy Independence Day.