Our first posting of a few images of America over the years and the modest explanation of the images’ relationship to the past, present and future was overly simplistic. Those images cover a lot of time and space. The initial post addresses almost nothing of the challenges we face as a nation today, experiencing a growing gap between “rich and poor,” “right and wrong,” “blue and red” or any other end points on a linear scale.
A simple truth, however, is that there really aren’t just two end points that pull us in one direction or another, nor is there a linear scale that positions each of us. Such an abstraction is not an element of the promise America held out nearly three centuries ago, nor is it relevant in the age of super-connected cyberspace. Entry points don’t exist at the right or left, or top or bottom of any scale because the connected age of cyberspace renders such scales useless as a frame of reference. In fact, the image of a linear scale only adds to the challenge of visualizing where we’ve come since the advent of cyberspace.
The American Promise, not to be confused with the American Dream, is that we can all succeed in this nation through equal access to the opportunities America has to offer. The promise also says that access might be achieved from many, many entry points. The promise is as much about the fairness and transparency of the process of access as it is about the outcome.
Our real challenge in fulfilling The American Promise today is to learn from the past to inform our present to prepare for our future in a way that accommodates our real needs, no matter where our entry point was. The fulfillment of the promise is based on our citizens and our leaders making certain no one is closed out because of where someone might have started on that so-called scale. Effective leadership at all levels and in all disciplines is critical to ensuring access to The American Promise.
It’s really been that way from the beginning of the nation but is now aggravated by the fact that we’ve grossly overlooked the failures of leadership in this generation. Somehow, our leaders encouraged us to collectively decide that what divides us was stronger than what united us as a nation. We say “collectively” because that’s been the result, whether intentional or not, of an aggregate of individual and group behaviors, aided by massive proliferation of the connecting technologies of cyberspace. These behaviors and technologies have changed The American Promise to something much different than it was even 25 years ago, something our leaders either failed to notice or consciously exploited.
The context of The American Promise is very modestly depicted in our images, intended to show the diversity of race and gender and interest and invention that made America what it is, and how it could offer so much promise to so many people. We should still be proud: as a nation relative to the rest of the world, we got off to a good start. Context was actually built into the Constitution of the United States even though it started out as a compromise based on the events that composed the perspectives of the late 18th s paid off.
In spite of the compromises of that time and place, many good and some not so good, it has been our Constitution that also provides a synergistic power that we still tap today to keep The American Promise alive. All of us have experienced how the promise is constantly adapting to stay alive and offer an almost eternal hope for the future. That hope is what makes Americans so distinctive in this world. It’s just as a French person once told Chuck, “We admire you because you Americans think you can do just about anything. You don’t find that in Europeans. There is a sense of moderation and limitations I just don’t see in Americans. You guys think you can do anything, and you know what? You are often right because you believe in yourselves.” We still believe in the opportunity that is the core of The American Promise.
In this blog, our goal is to reexamine The American Promise, synergize it around the current social and technological contexts that exist in our day and the near future, and discuss how we all can benefit from both the promise and process of opportunity we believe our Founders intended to convey. The American Promise in the Connected Age is quite alive and capable of guiding not only Americans but all the citizens of the world to benefit from who we were and who we will be.
We may no longer be as exceptional as we previously thought, nor quite the once-powerful engine to fulfill the American Dream as many conceived in past generations. However, America is still capable of keeping its promise to be the pinnacle of opportunity, freedom and security. And, even though we may be changing, it’s encouraging to know we’re able to recognize these changes. A January, 2014 Pew Research Poll on the Growth of Inequality and the solutions we as a nation are thinking about across the span of political leanings, show that access to opportunity is still a major national objective – indeed at the core of The American Promise. It’s not about equality of outcome but equality of opportunity: a huge difference!
Bottom line: we must not sell ourselves short. Certain countries may exceed the US in a few select categories (higher average life expectancies, per capita wages, lower rates of gun violence, higher math scores, etc.), but there is no other country that has a better “all around package” that emphasizes access to opportunity. Even with our occasional blunders both at home and outside the US, this is absolutely no time to be selling ourselves short.
No, this is a time we need to proudly hold The Promise more closely than ever. This is a time to keep our focus on addressing the places we fall short, especially at home. Moreover, this is a time for a sober yet optimistic reassessment of where we are today, informed and inspired by the dreams of our founders but, equally importantly, reflecting the world in which we find ourselves now.
So, please go back and look at our very modest collection of images again. Roll up your sleeves and get ready for a sober, yet optimistic assessment of where we are and what we need to do to take the best advantage of it. Observe the context and what we must synergize to fulfill the American Promise in the Connected Age.
Please get on board with us and make this a better discussion.
Originally posted by Carl W. Hunt and Charles E. Hunt, 2/4/2014