Saturday, August 18, 2012

Big Ideas

Big Ideas

It’s an election year and every politician wants us to believe that their big idea is best for the country.  But big ideas are like noses – everyone has one…..and not all of them are worth considering.

Dwight Eisenhower had a big idea back in the 50s – to build an interstate highway system all across America.  Sure, it was a good idea because it facilitated moving the military around the country easily – something that he learned was necessary during the War – but it was good in so many other ways too. The fact is, that big idea – like Roosevelt’s New Deal, Kennedy’s Space program, Johnson’s Great Society, Nixon’s approach to China, and Reagan’s “tear down that wall” speech  -  significantly improved lives and livelihoods and are still paying dividends today. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not sure we’re seeing ideas that are similar in vision and scope today.

I was thinking about this last week as I drove the New York Thruway on my way to the Adirondacks. I’ve actually driven across the US twice and been amazed as one interstate led into the next – through Pennsylvania and Ohio, across the Great Plains, over the continental divide and Rockies, and on into California.  Whether taking this northern route, or following its southerly twin across Texas, up through Nashville and then along the Eastern Seaboard, the sheer expanse of this land we live in is impressive to behold.  And that wouldn’t have been possible without Ike’s big idea.

Most of the time the only perspective we have on the size and diversity of our country is through the eyes of the media commentators who define it in terms of red or blue states. They’d like us to believe that there are more differences that divide us than common values that unite us.  But that’s not the case.

As this month’s political conventions take over the airwaves from the recently concluded Olympics, it’s probably a good idea to view these as the polar opposites of the human spirit: one is divisive, the other is inclusive; one is full of demagoguery, the other is full of hope; one is viewed with cynicism, the other with pride; and one represents the lowest common denominators, the other the best we have to offer.  It’s rare that two opposites like this bump into one another so visibly, so watch both spectacles and decide for yourself what is really important, and how you should act every day.   Remember to think big the next time you head out on the highway of life.

My message this week is about what turns ordinary into extraordinary:

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank

Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank (1929 – 1945) was one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her diary has been the basis for several plays and films.

Everything great starts with your imagination. No matter what your circumstances, as long as you can think and dream about great things, then you have the foundation upon which to act.  And you don’t have to wait for anyone to tell you to start – just look around at the things that surround you and try to imagine how to improve any one of them.  Chances are you have some pretty good ideas, and all you have to do is figure them out.  You’ll have to think your ideas all the way through; you may then want to share them with others to see what they might think; and if they’re good then some may even be adopted.  But if you’re shy, or feel that speaking up might not be appreciated, you might hesitate to even start imagining how to make things better.  Stop thinking that way right now, because nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve anything!

Stay well!

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