The Land of the FREE & the Home of the BRAVE

Anyone who knows me well is aware of the great love I have for my Country -- the United States of America.  Today is a special day for me, the result of an unusual travel itinerary that affords me the unique opportunity of spending time in 5 different States in all 4 time zones of the Continental U.S. What a privilege it is to get to see so much of this wonderful country in the span of less than 20 hours.

As we approach Independence Day -- the 4th of July -- this year, I have compiled a series of seven essays I've written in the past year on the subject of American history and patriotism. I invite you and your family to read these articles and spend some time reflecting on and discussing the blessings we have -- and the duties we hold -- as citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Article 1: America for Me
Article 2: Liberty & Freedom
Article 3: Freedom Focused
Article 4: The Last Best Hope of Earth
Article 5: Ask Not
Article 6: America's Next Great Challenge
Article 7: The Patriotism Principle




Article 1
America for Me

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!


I love my country—the United States of America.  It is a great country.  In the history of the world, there has never been another country like it.  I am proud to be an American.

Over the course of my young life to date, I have had the privilege of living in five different States in all four time zones in the Continental U.S.  I have visited 49 of the 50 States in addition to the District of Columbia, the Territory of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Nearly everywhere I traveled in this blessed land of promise, I have been edified by the beauty of her landscapes, the achievements of her architects, builders, and entrepreneurs, and the warmth, character, and goodness of her citizens. 

Growing up, I was richly educated in American history, political science, and patriotism.  I received my lessons at home, at school, at church, in the community, and from personal reading and study.  As I read and learned, I came to admire, even to reverence men and women such as: George WashingtonBenjamin FranklinJohn & Abigail AdamsThomas JeffersonJames MadisonAbraham LincolnFrederick DouglassMartin Luther King, Jr.John F. KennedyRonald Reagan, and others like them. 

My education and experiences have led me to believe that the United States is an exceptional nation.  This belief is not rooted in any conceited notion that Americans are existentially superior to citizens of other countries; we are not.  It stems, rather, from the recognition that America was built on certain true and virtuous principles that empowered us to become a shining example of liberty, democracy, and the rule of law to the rest of the world. 

The Flag Goes By

             Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of colour beneath the sky:
                       Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
               Hats off!
The colours before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land’s swift increase;
Equal justice, right, and law,
Stately honour and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
Toward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honour,—all
Live in the colours to stand or fall.

              Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
              Hats off!
The flag is passing by![2]

(1863-1924)


The United States is not perfect.  It has its faults, both historically and presently.  Without any doubt, her most salient collective sin was slavery, whose historical horrors and lingering effects of prejudice, disenfranchisement, and inequality have been a tremendous historical blight on our national character. 

Blacks are not the only group to be unfairly treated.  The inhumane relocation of Native Americans to reservations throughout our history, and the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provide two other prominent examples. 

The persecution of my own ancestors, who were among the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (mainstream Mormons) in the early-mid nineteenth century, is well documented.  My people experienced little aid or mercy from State or Federal governments, despite the religious freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, as well as other would-be protections of the law.  When Church founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., petitioned President Martin Van Buren in 1839 for redress of wrongs inflicted upon his people, the President callously replied: “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. ... if I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri.”[1] This persecution climaxed on June 27, 1844, when my third-great grandfather, Hyrum Smith, was murdered with his brother Joseph (my third-great uncle) by an angry mob after receiving assurances of protection from Thomas Ford, then Governor of the State of Illinois.  Other inequities, injustices, governmental neglect of, and persecutions to, early members of the LDS Church have been carefully chronicled.

Despite these historical wrongs, I am grateful my parents and church never taught me to hate those who persecuted my ancestors; nor was I taught to badmouth or begrudge any erstwhile, unjust actions by the U.S. Government.  Instead, I was taught to forgive, to venerate the sacrifices of my forbearers, and to model their courage, integrity, and character in my own life.  I was taught to internalize the good and discard the bad.  I was also taught that the United States, despite Her flaws, was a great nation that operated under a divinely inspired Constitution.  

One of the things that has made the United States such an exceptional nation is the value Americans place on self-reliance and self-improvement, as well as our collective pursuit of redemption.  We strive to right past wrongs, and in many ways, have been extraordinarily successful in doing so. 

For example, in the main, African Americans live in a world unrecognizable from the one their ancestors inhabited in past generations and centuries.  While things aren’t perfect yet, I am encouraged by the progress we have made.  I can’t imagine a better indication of this progress than the convincing victory of an African-American President not once, but twice.  Anyone with any grasp of history—regardless of one’s political persuasion—had to pause and glory for a moment at the tangible evidence of progress evinced by Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration in 2009.  We have even had a Presidential election featuring an African American and Mormon—an unthinkable scenario a hundred years ago—or even one generation ago!”  Such improvements and redemption are among the many reasons the USA is such a remarkable nation.    

Since the United States’ rise to superpower status following the fall of the Axis Powers in World War II, our nation has exhibited unprecedented magnanimity, generosity, and imperialistic restraint compared to all erstwhile Superpowers.  For those opposed to conquest and colonialism, which we at Freedom Focused are, compare the United States’ 1945-2015 record to the Soviet UnionGermanyGreat BritainFranceSpain, and Rome (Superpowers of the last two millennia).  There is no comparison.  The United States is the only country in world history that, upon reaching Superpower status, chose the moral high road by curbing further expansion of empire by force.  For nearly 70 years now, we have possessed the hard power to dramatically expand an American Empire had imperialism been our quest.  Instead, Americans have consistently chosen to be a model for liberty, democracy, and international magnanimity through humanitarian and other aid.  No country on Earth givesserves, and protects like the United States of America.  Nearly everywhere we go, we provide good examples for the rest of the world to see, and in many cases, replicate.  The world is infinitely better—and safer—because the USA exists. 

Sadly, a culture of ignorance, irresponsibility, and partisanship has poisoned some Americans to the point that many question the fundamental goodness and greatness of the United States.  As a result, they focus on limitations and grievances where, in fact, endless blessings and opportunities exist.  Ever focused on the United States’ past sins and present imperfections, many have myopically rationalized away the brilliance and exceptionalism, not to mention the extraordinary opportunities and potential that still exist in the greatest country on the Planet.

We do not live in a perfect nation or world.  But pessimism, with the focus it places on the past rather than the present or future, was not what made America great, nor will it be what rescues us from our present slump.            

America is an exceptional nation in part because of the brilliance of Her founding document—the Constitution.  This document has afforded America the honor of being the first successful self-governing democracy in modern times.  This work—the oldest operational constitution of its kind—has served as a model for over a hundred other countries around the globe that have created similar constitutions since 1787.  

Adhering to the principles of our Constitution has led directly to the unprecedented peace, prosperity, and power the U.S. has enjoyed over the past two centuries.  In the words of four-time British Prime Minister William Gladstone, the U.S. Constitution is, “The most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”  

Whatever weaknesses democracies may exhibit, they are vastly preferable to autocratic or oligarchic alternatives.  In the pithy parlance of Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government on Earth… except, that is, for all the others.”  Simply stated, the Constitution of the United States, when honored and upheld with integrity, works wonders in an imperfect world.  It is the cornerstone that created, and will yet maintain, the unprecedented power and greatness of The United States of America.



Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the
       kings,—
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.

   So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
   My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
   In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
   Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars… [3]

(1852-1933)


Next Post: Wednesday, November 26, 2014; Chapter 7, Part II: Gateways to Liberty & Freedom 

Notes:

[1] Garr, A.K. (2009). Joseph Smith: Campaign for President of the United States. Ensign. (quoting LDS Church History).  URL: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/02/joseph-smith-campaign-for-president-of-the-united-states?lang=eng
[2] Bennet, H.H. (The Flag Goes By) from the book Poems Every Child Should Know: A Selection of the Best Poems of All Time for Young People. (1915). Edited by Mary E. Burt. New York: NY. Grosset & Dunlap. (Google Books Edition). Page 133-134.
[3] Dyke, H.V. (1920). The Poems of Henry Van Dyke. New York: NY. Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Google Books Edition). Page 314.


Article 2
Liberty & Freedom


America: The Gateway to Personal Liberty

One of the things that makes the United States a great nation is the gift of liberty she so liberally allots to her citizens.  The Founders of our Republic, working in concert with regular citizens, purchased this liberty with countless quantities of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat[1] expended during the Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts.  Liberty has always been precious to American patriots. In the awe-inspiring words of Patrick Henry:

Why stand we here idle?  What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to bepurchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death![2]


Since her earliest days, America has proven to be the world's greatest gateway to liberty.  The poet Emma Lazarus captured this unprecedented phenomenon when she penned the following words, now inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beyond the golden door!

For over four centuries, people from all corners of the globe have immigrated to the “New World” in hopes of securing the opportunities that only liberty could grant.  The United States of America has been, and to a large extent still is, the world’s great Gateway to Liberty. 

In the modern world’s darkest hours of world war, when freedom and democracy were threatened by monarchy, and later fascism and genocide, the U.S. stepped up, and stepped in, to provide the necessary money, resources, firepower, manpower, leadership, and resolve to see the Allies through to victory—not once, but twice in the past 100 years.    

No song ever sounded our resolve with more confidence and patriotism than the lyrics of George M. Cohan’s timeless classic, Over There.  Written in 1917, shortly after America’s entrance into the First World War, also known as The Great War, the leadership of Cohan’s pen and piano sounded a clarion call around the World:

              Over there, over there,

We did go over there, and we didn’t come back till Allied Forces had won both wars and, in the words of President Woodrow Wilson, made the world “Safe for Democracy.”  Cohan’s words send chills from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, not because they represent clever lyrics or good poetry, but because they were backed up by COURAGE & ACTION—two increasingly elusive commodities in our postmodern world where preaching is prodigious and practice is pathetic, if not absent entirely.  Thank God for the goodness and greatness of the United States of America.  Without her, the world—and liberty—would be in far worse shape than they already are.  


Self-Action Leadership: The Gateway to Personal Freedom

If America—and nations like her—provides gateways to personal liberties, Self-Action Leadership provides gateways to personal freedom.  Liberty and freedom are interrelated concepts, but they are not the same thing.  Consider the dictionary definitions of these two words:

Liberty: The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.[3]

This book highlights these important differences further, as follows:

Liberty: state-granted freedoms such as freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and the right to bear arms. 

Freedom: personal liberties earned  as a result of exercising self-discipline, diligence, and self-reliance over time in humble acquiescence of True Principles. 

Liberty is your right to choose without the threat of an external enforcer precluding that right.  Freedom, on the other hand, refers to your capacity (or lack thereof) to choose your thoughts, speech, and actions according to consciously selected values and decisions—as opposed to merely responding to your present mood, natural inclination, or external condition.[4]  Liberty is the collective gift we all enjoy because of those who have sacrificed so much on the battlefield and beyond.  Freedom is the reward that individuals earn when they pay the price of Existential Growth by aligning their thoughts, speech, and behavior with True Principles.  

Exercising your personal freedom to be proactive rather than reactive is the personification of personal power.  It also largely determines the long-term extent of your influence on others. 

It is possible to enjoy liberty without freedom.  For example, all Americans enjoy the same basic liberties.  Some Americans, however, end up enjoying much more freedom than others over time as a result of a strong work ethic, a good education, a positive attitude, and a personal dedication to discipline, integrity, self-reliance, and True Principles.  

On the other hand, it is also possible to enjoy freedom without liberty.  For example, American prisoners of war (POWs) in Vietnam had no liberty during their multi-year stints in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, yet many of these noble men achieved staggering feats of courage, acuity, resiliency, and education[5] by exercising the mental, emotional, and spiritual freedoms the Viet Cong could not take away from them.  The “V”—as the POWs referred to their captors[6]—could deprive them of liberties and torture their bodies.  They could attempt to brainwash their minds and break their spirits.  But in the end, they could not control the wills and responses of those who refused to relinquish their inner freedom to resist.[7]

One famous prisoner of war, Victor Frankl, labored in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.  Despite his abject circumstances and crushing captivity, he enjoyed more freedom than many of his fellow prisoners, and in a sense, even more than his captors, because of the discipline he exercised over his mind and attitude, and the courage he showed under intense pressure and fatigue.  Frankl understood the principle taught by the Scottish warrior William Wallace, who famously, albeit fictionally, cried to his men in rallying them to fight against their English foes: “They may take our lives (or liberty), but they’ll never take our freedom."[8]

“The secret to happiness is freedom.  And the secret to freedom is courage.”

(460 - 395 B.C.)

There are many people who enjoy liberty, but are not free, having sacrificed their freedom on the altar of selfishness, hedonism, gluttony, addiction, irresponsibility, and nihilism.  The cost of this poor use of liberty is that many tragically live out their lives in voluntary bondage, so that they come to say in the end, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”[9]

One of the great paradoxes of life is that personal freedom can only expand as individuals voluntarily submit their thoughts, speech, and behavior to the edicts of True Principles.  Freedom, therefore, can only come after  we align our thoughts, speech, and actions with true principles.  There is no other pathway to true freedom.  You must pay its price, which is typically high, heavy, and hard.  It takes much effort, and enormous courage.  But for those willing to pay the price, the rewards are bountiful and lavish; they include expanded personal freedom, prosperity, and peace of mind.


An American Renaissance of Personal Responsibility

What would the world look like without America?  I shudder to contemplate such a dour scenario.  I am proud of my rich heritage as a citizen of the United States.  I am proud to be an AMERICAN, where liberty is protected, and freedom is ever possible.  Nevertheless, we must all open our eyes to the fact that our Nation currently faces deep divisions, menacing internal character and cultural issues, and a menagerie of external enemies on the world-stage who would gladly harm or kill us if given the chance.  Such adversity cannot be successfully met and overcome without addressing the root of the problem--the true enemy--that lies inside  each one of us.  These extraordinary difficulties will not resolve themselves; and ignoring them will only intensify their already frightening symptoms.   

I invite YOU—and individuals from all walks of life—to rise up and join Freedom Focused in ushering in a Renaissance of personal responsibility and character education in defense of American ideals.  Such foci, combined with a resurgence of national patriotism, will serve to promote and protect the liberties granted us by the Constitution, and protect us from dangers that loom ominously within and without our Nation’s borders.  In coming years and decades, our liberties, opportunities, and perhaps even our very lives may depend on this vital reawakening.      

Next post: Friday, November 28, 2014: Chapter 8: Freedom Focused, Part I


Notes:

[1] Titular phrase taken from Winston Churchill’s first speech to the House of Commons after becoming Prime Minister.  Delivered on May 10, 1940.
[2] From Henry’s famous speech entitled, The War Inevitable, delivered March 23, 1775 before the 2nd Virginia Convention in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. 
[3] Definitions of liberty freedom provided by the New Oxford American Dictionary (electronic version).
[4] Covey, S.R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Fireside.  Page 71.  
[5] According to POW Lee Ellis, “The lack of books or outside resources did not limit our continuous learning in the POW camps.  We relied on recall of past education, and where there was a lack of clarity on a subject, we tried to get a consensus of the best minds” (p. 123).  Everything from calculus and public speaking to history, politics, philosophy, science, and foreign languages were taught amongst the prison mates.  In Ellis’ words: “It’s remarkable how much talent [and knowledge] resided in that group of military men” (p. 122). See Ellis, L. (2012). Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. FreedomStar Media.    
[6] Shorthand for the Viet Cong.  A nickname given to their captors by American POWs in in the Vietnam conflict.  See  Leading with Honor by Lee Ellis, Page 17.
[7] For a detailed description of the horrors faced and successes achieved by Vietnam POWs in the “Hanoi Hilton,” I highly recommend Lee Ellis’s 2012 book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. FreeomStar Media. 
[8] From the movie, Braveheart, directed by and starred in by Mel Gibson (1995). 
[9] Lewis, C.S. (1995). The Screwtape Letters. New York, NY: Bantam.    


Article 3
Freedom Focused


This book seeks to ignite the cultural championing of personal freedom. The freedom I speak of is not freedom from hardship and responsibility—the freedom to do as you please—but the freedom to become all you are capable of becoming as a fully actualized human being. I speak of the freedom to move forward in your life, to conquer your flaws, and to become successful, prosperous, and happy.  

Many people view freedom as a means of escaping duty and responsibility—the so-called right to do whatever you want.  In truth, you are free to think, say, and do what you want.  The trouble is you are not free from the consequences of your choices.  Because you cannot control consequences, doing whatever you please may bring short-term pleasure, but often ends in long-term pain, failure, misery, and poverty of all kinds.  Everyone has the right to make poor choices.  But no one has the power to evade the accompanying negative and painful consequences that inevitably result from so doing. 

Truly, what goes around does indeed come around.  True freedom, therefore, must always be earned; and its attainment can only be secured by paying the price set by True Principles.

Oftentimes, people seek freedom from toil, trouble, challenges, and self-reliance.  Individuals interested in Existential Growth, however, must seek freedom to.  Freedom to what?  Freedom to pursue education and other opportunities; freedom to transcend personal obstacles and weakness; and freedom to become self-reliant.  What kind of freedom do you seek?  Freedom from or freedom to?  [1]  How you answer this question throughout your life will largely determine the extent of your personal freedom and Existential Growth. 

My invitation to you, therefore, is to become FREEDOM FOCUSED.  But remember that both liberty and freedom come with a price—and often a heavy one. 


The Price of Liberty

I have had the privilege of walking peacefully among the legions of graves in some of our Nation’s largest military cemeteries.  From Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and Sam Houston National Cemetery in Texas, to Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, I have reverently and thoughtfully meandered passed tens of thousands of headstones marking the final resting places of those who gave their lives that this nation might live[2]  When I consider the heavy price in blood and treasure expended to maintain our nation’s liberty and safety over the past 250 years, my soul is subdued, and my heart swells with thanksgiving.  Liberty is not free.  It comes with a price—usually a high price that in some instances prove fatal.

Arlington NationalCemetery  ~  Arlington, VA

USS Arizona Memorial & gravesite of 1,102 Sailors and Marines  ~  Pearl Harbor; Honolulu, HI


With World War II Combat veteran Robert Wai (aged 95) of Honolulu, Hawaii, at his home in 2014.  Wai served in the U.S. Army and helped liberate the Philippines.  On the wall is a picture of his brother Francis Wai, a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor recipient during the Clinton administration. Francis died fighting in the Pacific in 1944. (Photo included with permission of Wai).  


I honor and venerate the men and women who were willing to pay whatever price liberty demanded throughout our history.  As their courageous lives—and sometimes deaths—illustrate, the price of liberty is high and hard to pay, yet securing it for oneself and one’s family and fellow citizens is priceless. 

It is because of these brave men and women that I feel so authentically proud of my Country.  I am also proud of my native State—Utah—and my adopted state—Texas.  I cherish the history of my Nation and States.  Utah’s history of pilgrimage and pioneers and Texas’ history of revolution and independence are microcosms of America’s story.  The challenges the Utah pioneers faced in overcoming prejudice and persecution and then taming a wilderness to settle a new land in the mid-nineteenth century paralleled the experiences of European settlers who immigrated to the Eastern Seaboard in the early-mid seventeenth century.  Likewise, Texans dealt with Mexican tyranny and brutality in ways that mirrored the U.S.’s clashes with Great Britain a half-century earlier.  Both eventually declared their independence from foreign foes in official, signed Declarations of Independence, and both eventually drafted their own constitution that wisely gave power to the people.  Texas was, in fact, an independent republic for nine years prior to joining the U.S. as the 28th State in 1845.  Both Colonists and Texans spilt priceless blood on the battlefield en route to gaining their independence.   

Each year in the month of April, I participate in the reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto, which is the battle whereby Texans revenged their bloody losses at the Alamo and elsewhere to win their independence from Mexico in 1836.  My good friend, Frank McLane, Jr., and I are part of the Texas Army.  Frank plays an especially prominent role--that of James Sylvester, the flag bearer.  The flag carried into that historically pivotal battle displays the image of a bare-breasted “Lady Liberty.”  Hardly a display of nineteenth century pornography, this image was intended to illustrate and personify the vulnerability of liberty.  The idea was to remind Texas citizens that they must be vigilant in protecting their personal liberties, lest they be ravished by a foreign or domestic foe.  During the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836, the Mexican dictator and self-proclaimed Napoleon of the WestAntonio López de Santa Ana—attempted to ravish the liberty of Texans with his well-equipped and well-trained Mexican Army.  Though ultimately victorious, the Texans lost many lives fighting to protect their own liberty, which had grown vulnerable under the tyrannical reign of Santa Ana. 

One of my favorite examples of Self-Action Leadership in American historical literature is a letter written by Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the Union Army (2nd Rhode Island Volunteers) at the outset of the Civil War.  An educated man, Ballou was a successful, 32-year old lawyer in Providence when war broke out between North and South.  Responding to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers, Ballou enlisted, was elected an officer, and led his troops into battle against the Confederate Army at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), where he was shot and killed. 

Before the battle, however, Ballou laid bare the tremendous love he had for both his family and country in an eloquent letter.  This letter, one of the most famous in the history of American warfare, eloquently highlights that some things really are worth dying for.  It also provides a unique portrait of SAL in action.      

Headquarters, Camp Clark
Washington, D.C., July 15, 1861

My Very Dear Wife:

Indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps to-morrow.  Lest I should not be able to write you gain, I feel impelled to write a few lines, that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. 

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. …  If it is necessary that I should fall on the battle-field for [my] country, I am ready.  I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.  I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt. …

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death, and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country and thee. 

I have sought most closely and diligently … for a wrong motive in this hazarding the happiness of those I loved, and I could not find one.  A pure love of my country, and of the principles I have often advocated before the people, and “the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed. 

Sarah, my love for you is deathless.  It seems to bind me with mighty cables, that nothing but Omnipotence can break; and yet, my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly on with all those chains, to the battlefield.  The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them so long.  And how hard it is for me to give them up, and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our boys grow up to honorable manhood around us.

… If I do not [return], my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that, when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name. 

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you.  How thoughtless, how foolish I have oftentimes been!  How gladly would I wash out with my tears, every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm.  But I cannot, I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. 

But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the garish day, and the darkest night amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours always, always, and, if the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air cools your throbbing temples, it shall be my spirit passing by. 

Sarah, do not mourn me dear; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again. …

– Sullivan [3]


The Price of Freedom

Freedom, like liberty, also comes with a heavy price.  Its price tags include heavy investments of time, effort, diligence, work, sacrifice, determination, persistence, consistence, and patience.  Meeting its exacting demands can sometimes seem overwhelming.  But if you are willing to pay the price of freedom, you will, in due time, be compensated many-fold for your desires and diligence.  Being Freedom Focused pays big time.  While you may not receive your “Paychecks” as soon or as often as you would like, they always come eventually if you are willing to pay the prices to earn it.  And in many cases, the compensation exceeds the price many fold.

Like liberty, personal freedom is also susceptible to invasions and attacks from forces both internal and external.  Like your virtue, it must be willingly upheld, dutifully defended, and vigilantly protected, or you will most assuredly lose it.

At Freedom Focused, nothing in the world except life itself compares to the value and importance of personal freedom.  And as Victor Frankl and American POWs so compellingly illustrated in transcending the horrors of Auschwitz and the Hanoi Hilton, freedom is even more vital than liberty.

I seek after and cherish freedom beyond more than anything else in my life, including liberty.  Freedom is virtually everything to me.  It is my life’s most salient, single focus.  It is also my greatest personal quest.  It is the reason I named my company Freedom Focused. 
             

I am Freedom Focused.
Focused, that is, on Freedom.

Freedom from tyrants,
And evil and terror,

Freedom from bias,
Injustice, and error,

But most of all . . .

Freedom from myself,
And the devil within.

A fiend far more fearsome
Than the author of sin.

Freedom in all its glorious majesty,
And liberating bliss,
Will be mine forever
If I’ll remember this:
True Principles exist and govern
Outside of all human opinion,
And Serendipity
Has my back and yours
As long as we do our part,

Therefore:
I truly
Am
Sovereign,
And by extension

I am also FREE
To be
The kind of Man
I want to be
In this life,
And throughout
All eternity.

I am, therefore, Freedom Focused
Focused, that is, on
Freedom,
Now,
&
Forever.



“In the long run [you] hit only what [you] aim at.”

– Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862)




Notes:

[1] I first learned this concept from Felicia Cockrell, who was introduced to it by a friend.  Others have also written on the subject, as illustrated by related quotes in BOOK THE SECOND, Chapter 13, where Felicia’s remarkable SAL story is highlighted.
[2] Phrase from the Gettysburg Address.
[3] The full transcript of Sullivan Ballou’s famous letter can be found at the National Park Service website at URL: http://www.nps.gov/resources/story.htm?id=253


Article 4
The Last Best Hope of Earth

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

(1869-1948)

In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize.  When asked what individuals could do to promote world peace, she replied: “Go home and take care of your families.”  That august sage of the Indian subcontinent understood the great truth that macro problems cannot be solved externally; they must be internally repaired.  Our nation’s greatest problems begin at home, and our greatest problems at home begin inside the minds, hearts, and souls of individuals.  

America as a whole is powerful and great because of individuals and families who are honest, hard working, and self-reliant.  Conversely, America’s biggest problems are rooted in broken families, which result when individuals abdicate their familial and/or personal responsibilities.  Fix broken individuals and broken families and you fix America.  It's that simple; it is also that difficult.


“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving,
and that’s your own self.

I wanted to change the world,
but I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.”

(1894-1963)


If you want to change the world, change yourself.  America – or any other nation – is only as great as the citizens that comprise her.  That includes you, me, and everyone else.  When a system’s micro components are strengthened, the macro system itself is refined and fortified. 


A Formula for Success     

This book calls for a national revitalization of American strength and character.  Self-Action Leadership provides a means of constructing and maintaining American Greatness.  We’ll leave the strengthening of other areas—military, political, economic, agricultural, energy, and spiritual-religious—to experts in those fields.  Freedom Focused suggests a 3-point educational-based formula for resurrecting American greatness in the twenty-first century. 

1.     Peace through Strength

2.     Strength through Freedom & Unity

3.     Freedom & Unity through Integrity to True Principles



America must remain the strongest nation on Earth—economically, militarily, educationally, and morally—for the safety and prosperity of We the People as well as all other nations.  If America does not lead, someone else—who does not place the same value on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—will, to the detriment of all mankind.   

I admire John F. Kennedy.  I think that in some ways, he deserves to be ranked among our nation’s best and strongest leaders.  While I do not respect some of the ways in which he chose to conduct his personal and political life, I do admire the strength of his leadership during his brief stint as our Commander-in-Chief.  This admiration springs largely from the philosophy of peace through strength that Kennedy championed. 

As a young man in the late 1930s, Kennedy spent time in London, England, where he observed the workings of a well intentioned, but ultimately weak, British government.  Led by then Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain, Kennedy watched as Britain infamously made “peace” with Adolf Hitler only a few short years before Nazi bombs were raining down on English cities.  These vicious, unprovoked air raids killed 40,000 people in London alone during the Battle of Britain in 1940; so much for peace.  A budding world leader, Kennedy learned early in his life that evil exists and that evil leaders do not respect weakness—militarily or otherwise. 

Later, as President, embracing the paradigm of peace through strength empowered Kennedy to successfully steer the country through the Cuban Missile Crisis without starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.  President Kennedy’s successful handling of this crisis ranks among the finest foreign policy achievements in our country’s history.  His actions were bold, audacious, and courageous.  More importantly, they were rooted in the principle that peace is best achieved not through acquiescence and capitulation, but through undeviating courage backed by hard power.

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.  I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. … Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. … We dare not tempt [our enemies] with weakness.  For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.[1] 


The mantra, peace through strength, dates back to the ancient Roman EmperorHadrian, who built his famous wall in Britain as an eponymous symbol of a robust foreign policy.  Our nation’s first great general, George Washington, echoed Hadrian’s wisdom when he said: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”  

Ever eager to prevent World War III with the Soviet Union, most post-World War II Presidents enthusiastically embraced this ideology as the basis of American foreign policy.  Resurrecting Hadrian’s famous phrase as a political mantra empowered Ronald Reagan to defeat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential Election.  After winning the Presidency, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush after him, constructed America’s foreign policy around the principle of peace through strength.  Today, Reagan and Bush Sr. are widely credited as instrumental authors of the peace with the Soviet Union that marked the end of the twentieth century.

            When I was born in 1979, the United States was still fighting the Cold War with the Soviet Union.  This fact was not lost on my young friends and me.  As little boys growing up in the 1980s, our imaginary playtime battles virtually always pitted us against either “The Germans” or “The Russians.”  There was something noble—even on the playground—in fighting to defeat forces (i.e. fascism and communism) that sought to undermine personal liberty, freedom, opportunity, safety, and prosperity.

When I was 10 years old, something unthinkably wonderful happened; the Berlin Wall fell.  Two years later, in a seeming instant, the Soviet Union’s evil communistic empire had been relegated to where it belonged—the pages of history.  The United States remained the world’s lone superpower, and it seemed as though nothing could stop the proliferation of liberty and freedom backed by American opportunity, prosperity, and power.  American virtues were further displayed in the dramatic successes of our coalition forces against the evil tyrant Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. 

The following year, Michael JordanMagic JohnsonLarry Bird, and the rest of the original Dream Team personified American excellence on the Olympic basketball courts of Barcelona, Spain.  The apex of American Greatness had peaked in an unprecedented display of athletic artistry and dominance.  As the decade wore on, the synergistic fruits of self-government, the rule of law, the Protestant Work Ethic, Christian brotherly kindness and generosity, and free markets flourished as never before for the whole world to see—and seek to replicate.  America’s present power and future preeminence seemed assured.  I was privileged to grow up a U.S. citizen in the midst of this, her greatest period of collective prosperity.

            Unfortunately, this power and prosperity has not continued unabated.  A decade-and-a-half into the twenty-first century, we now find ourselves increasingly unsure of our identity and role in a world that has grown increasingly complicated, hostile, and dangerous.  In the midst of these growing complexities and hazards, the world needs a strong America more than ever.  The United States must lead!  To do so, we must curb our individual and collective slide down the slippery slope of diminished power and influence.  Likewise, we must reverse the troubling trends of individual indiscipline, dishonesty, selfishness, and lack of self-reliance.

The dam that will stop this increasingly unchecked flow of decay and decline will be built with metaphorical concrete and steel poured and forged in many different fields.  Our focus is education—the dam’s foundation.  The dam itself must be built by experts and leaders in other vital arenas, including, business, energy, agriculture, religion, politics, and government.  Leaders and performers in journalism, pop culture, art, literature, music, athletics, and every other field must also play key roles in restoring American greatness.  Such roles are played best when actors, actresses, artists, musicians, and athletes seek to influence their audiences to embrace True Principles instead of fleeing from them. 

And to educators everywhere… it is time to stop teaching students that America is bad, or that America ought to become like other countries in the world.  Such statements are false, and accompanying pathways are dangerous—for all of us, including for those who think our nation is evil, and seek its diminishment or destruction.  Aside from outright destroying us, our enemies abroad love nothing more than to see voices and efforts from within erode the very strength that can defend us from attack, thus aiding them in their nefarious designs.    


2. Strength through Freedom & Unity


“United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures.  Divided, there is little we can do.  For we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds, and split asunder.  Let [us] explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us."

 President John F. Kennedy
(1917-1963)          

If we are to remain the strongest nation on Earth, we must put an end to the bitter antagonism and petty quibbling that has overtaken so much of our land in recent decades.  We must unite in a collective embrace of the personal and organizational principles that made our nation great in the first place. 

We call upon Americans everywhere to re-commit to the True Principles that successfully created, and has thus far sustained, the greatest nation in the history of the Planet.  Let us individually and collectively forsake the pseudo-principles and petty practices that only deepen our current divisions.  We won’t give up on America.  We hope you won’t either. 

However admirable a goal restoring American unity and greatness may be, our present reality paints a picture whose dark lines of division overshadow our present pastels of progress.  Amazingly, secession is increasingly talked about in some corners of our nation.  The problem with a secession paradigm—no matter how well intentioned—is that it only breeds more secession.  Had the South won the Civil War, it would have only been a matter of time before the Southeastern States wished to separate from the Southwestern States (or something similar), and on it would go until all factions were drowned in a sea of anarchy.  

Permanent answers to serious problems can never be found in separating ourselves (running away) from problems.  The answer to America’s problems is not, nor will it ever be, secession.  The only, true answer lies in collective commitments to face up to and solve whatever problems we do face through individual commitments to True Principles.  Come what may in the future, we maintain an unfailing faith in the destiny of the United States of America, and believe that destiny involves unification now and indefinitely into the future.  

Like Abraham Lincoln before me, “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”[2]  Lincoln spoke these words three years before the outbreak of the Civil War.  In many ways, our nation is already fighting a Cold Civil War.  Whatever may yet occur before our own “Berlin Walls” are broken down may prove austere, if not dire, but let us not throw in the towel.    

We do not know, nor can we predict what this country will have to pass through before it makes it to the other side of the terrible gulf that presently bisects, trisects, and poly-sects us, but we at Freedom Focused remain optimistic about the long-term future of America.  Barring an unforeseen worldwide calamity, we believe America’s greatest days are not only ahead of her, but may very well be just around the next corner in the near future.  Be it sooner or later, however, America will rise from the ashes of her recent moral, educational, military, and political decline; America will lead the world once more.  America will once again be a strong, vibrant, nation of optimists where the dismal din and damage of critics, cynics, pessimists, and evil doers is kept to the shadows and back-alleys where it belongs. 

In the spirit of this optimism, we call on all Americans to embrace a vision of authentic unity that can only be achieved through conscience-guided Self-Action Leadership.  We do not have to agree on every particular to live together peaceably.  Unity can occur amidst a sea of great diversity, but only if conscience, character, compassion, tolerance, and integrity collectively carry the day.  Diversity can create the seedbed of our greatest progress, but only if True Principles are adhered to by all voices at the table.  This book has been written in a good-faith effort to identify and articulate those principles that are not unique to any one religion, ideology, or even one political party, but are rooted in natural law itself.  Let us reinvigorate the vision of one of America's most prominent leaders, who, just over one decade ago boldly proclaimed:

There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.  There's not a black                America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.  We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. ... [Let us not] participate in a politics of cynicism, ... [but] in a politics of hope [3].

These words, spoken by Senator Barack Obama in 2004, stirred hope for unity in the hearts and minds of many throughout our land.  His vision influenced millions to elect him President, not once, but twice.  Unfortunately, the divisions Mr. Obama sought to bridge have only deepened during his own Presidency.  Nevertheless, I believe in elements of his original vision.  If we are willing to unite in a collective embrace of True Principles, we can once again be the kind of nation that rose up in unity to defeat the most powerful Empire on Earth to earn our liberty 224 years ago--that same nation that overcame a bloody Civil War and severed the chains of human bondage 150 years ago, that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan 70 years ago, that put a man on the moon 45 years ago, and that in recent generations has been, in very deed, the greatest nation the world has ever seen.  Let us rise up and choose once again to become a “United States of America.”

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, I hope and pray we may all hang together in our quest to seek out and honor True Principles in a quest for individual freedom and collective strength and unity.  If we fail to do so, I fear many of us will hang separately; and the noose of natural law will prove ghastly in its effects on the personal destiny of each victim that chooses abdication over self-sovereignty. 


3. Freedom & Unity through Integrity to True Principles

The only way to achieve strength through freedom & unity is to seek for that unity through integrity to True Principles.  The purpose of this book is to identify and articulate those Principles that are rooted not in partisan ideology or personal preference, but in natural law.  Our aim, therefore, is not to promote our own brand of goodness and rightness, but to articulate what goodness and rightness actually ARE.  In the words of Emerson, “He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.”[4]  Therefore, let the principles throughout this book be submitted to a candid world[5] with Emerson’s conviction that “nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of [true] principles.”[6] 

We invite you to join us in this movement to stop being part of the problem, and start being part of solution to the many and varied issues that plague our families, communities, organizations, states, nations, and the world-at-large.  Join us in a twenty-first century revival dedicated to once again making the United States of America “The last best hope of earth.”[7]

Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history.  We … will be remembered in spite of ourselves. … The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.  We say we are for the Union.  The world will not forget that we say this.  We know how to save the Union.  The world knows we do know how to save it.  We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility.  … We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.  … The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.[8]


SAL Mantra
Peace through Strength  ~  Strength through Freedom & Unity  

~  Freedom & Unity through Integrity to True Principles


I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 


Notes:

[1] Excerpts from President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961.
[2] From Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech delivered in Springfield, IL on June 16, 1858.
[3] Excerpts from Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, MA.
[4] Emerson, R.W. Self-Reliance. In Ziff, L., Ed. (1985). Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Essays. New York, NY: Penguin.  Page 178.  Italics added. 
[5] Phrase from the Declaration of Independence.  
[6] Emerson, R.W. Self-Reliance. In Ziff, L., Ed. (1985). Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Essays. New York, NY: Penguin.  Page 203.
[7] From Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress delivered December 1, 1862.
[8] Ibid. 


Article 5
Ask Not
           
            Self-Action Leadership is about taking action to lead yourself.  Ironically, however, it is not ultimately about YOU.  SAL is much bigger than the individual.  Self-aggrandizement is not the goal of SAL, nor is self-improvement its endgame.  While Existential Growth is vitally important, it is merely a means to accomplishing SAL’s real end, which is to serve other people.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others.’”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.
(1929 - 1968)

The more you personally learn and grow, the more you will be able to contribute meaningfully to your family, school, business, community, state, nation, and world.


The Quest for National Excellence & Unity: Reanimating the American Dream

I have always been inspired by the Olympic Games, especially the Summer Olympics.  My earliest Olympic memory was watching Mary Lou Retton win a gymnastics gold medal in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.  I was just shy of my fifth birthday, but I can still recall her famous performance on the vault, and the All-American smile that followed her perfect landing. 

Watching subsequent Olympics further fueled my passion for competitive sport, goal setting, and the quest for national excellence and unity.  To this day, there is nothing quite like watching an American athlete stand atop the first-place medal stand, receive his or her gold medal and flowers, and then hear the regal refrains of the Star-Spangled Banner reverberate gloriously as the athlete sings the stirring lyrics of Francis Scott Key’s inspired anthem.  As a boy, I often envisioned myself someday standing atop the winner’s podium to receive a gold medal and sing patriotically before a worldwide audience. 

The closest I ever came to competing in the Olympics was racing in the 1500-meters final at the 2003 Junior College National Championships in Levelland, Texas.  I took second-to-last place in the race, but just to have qualified for that elite field was an honor and thrill I will always cherish.  Though my natural talent never rose to the Olympic standard, I relished each chance I got to place my hand over my heart and sing the national anthem prior to an athletic competition in which I played or raced.  Olympic champion or not, I was always proud to be an American athlete who strived to honor my country through personal excellence. 

There is value and power in patriotism because it allows individuals to dedicate themselves to a cause greater than themselves.  As an American, I hope you will choose to take pride in your citizenship, if for no other reason than the hope of making your country a better place through the exercise of your own Self-Action Leadership.  Good-faith displays of citizen patriotism can be an honorable means of developing and then celebrating noble character and high achievement.

As important as individualism is to Americans, our strength is also rooted in our collectivity.  Unfortunately, a growing lack of unity is paralleling America’s present decline. Like GreeceRomeSpainFranceGermanyBritain, and the Soviet Union before her, our land has begun to fall prey to humanity’s perpetual propensity for moral entropy, and the political, military, and cultural enfeeblement that inevitably follows. 

This is sad because it doesn’t have to be the case.  Our moral, educational, political, military, and cultural deterioration are not the results of external foes; they are the natural consequences of a collective character crisis.  If the United States is ever conquered, it will not be from an external foe.  It will result from an internal spoilage.  Abraham Lincoln, who presciently spoke the following words more than two decades before the onset of the Civil War, understood this:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?  By what means shall we fortify against it? – Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow?  Never! – All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the Earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us.  It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.[1]


My Contribution to the Nation I Love

I have great respect for the United States military, including all the volunteers who serve or have served the Stars and Stripes in uniform.  As a professional seminar facilitator, I have had the honor of training soldiers and civilians in all five branches of the U.S. Military (ArmyAir ForceNavyMarines, and Coast Guard).  It is always a privilege to work with these fine men and women, who dedicate their careers—and sometimes their safety and lives—to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and the values and virtues that undergird our nation's greatness.   

I greatly admire the tremendous contributions made by U.S. servicemen and women throughout history.  Some of my own ancestors and relatives have served in uniform, and in several cases seen combat in past conflicts.  My fifth great-grandfather served in General George Washington’s Continental Army during our Nation’s founding conflict, the American Revolution.  During World War II, my grandfather – an army radioman – landed on Utah Beach following the Allies’ D-Day attack.  My own Dad was two years old before he met his father in late 1945, following his honorable discharge from the Army following V-E Day.  One of my uncles flew helicopters in Vietnam, and another is a former F-15 Eagle fighter pilot and retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force.  My cousin, a former dentist in the Army, served in Iraq, and one of my best friends (also a dentist) served in the Air Force.  On two separate occasions, I considered serving myself.  The first time I investigated the opportunity, I learned I was ineligible because I was taking medication to treat OCD and depression—a categorical disqualifier of any applicant at the time.  The second time, when I was no longer on medication, another professional opportunity replaced any would-be military consideration. 

Although I have never had a chance to serve my country in uniform, I have always been eager to know what I could do to serve out of uniform.  This desire is fueled not only by my admiration for those who have served, or are serving, but by my recognition of the tremendous liberties and endless blessings I enjoy as a result of my U.S. Citizenship.  America has done so much for me.  The real question is: what have I done for America?

In 1961, in his Inauguration Address, President John F. Kennedy uttered the now immortal words:


Since I first learned about my remarkable heritage as an American, I have been asking myself this question.  One of my goals in writing this book is to give something back to the country that has done so much for me.  This nation has made it possible for me to have dreams, pursue them freely, and eventually accomplish them. 

It is payback time.

While this book may be a paltry contribution compared with others who have dedicated entire careers—or even their lives—to the defense and betterment of the USA, a literary contribution is something I can do; therefore, it is what I will do.  In writing this book, I have – to the best of my ability – attempted to articulate and explain the principles and practices I know can reanimate the American Dream for anyone willing to learn and apply them.  

The American Dream has become a reality for my wife and me, and it can become a reality for you, your children, and your children’s children.  But remember that the American Dream is just that—a dream—unless you are willing to learn about it and then seek after it with all you’ve got.  It will not simply walk up and knock on your door.  Prosperity is not a right guaranteed by citizenship; it is a privilege earned through Self-Action Leadership.  Therefore, in the end, it doesn’t really matter who your parents are or aren’t, or how much money, opportunity, or love they did or didn’t bequeath to you.  The true American Dream is no respecter of persons.  It is available to all; but it must be chased with energy and ambition if it is to be caught and realized. 

Are you up to, and ready for, the chase?  If so, READ ON… 

Notes:

[1] Excerpt from Lincoln’s speech entitled, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions, given at the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois; January 27, 1838.  For a full transcript of the speech, visit URL: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/lyceum.htm


Article 6
America's Next Great Challenge

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 
Contemporary Caution

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped tipped the political scales in favor of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Will Dr. Jordan Jensen’s Self-Action Leadership have a similar impact on the elections of 2016, 2020, and other impending events in America's Future?

The following essay provides some hints…


A decade before the outbreak of the Civil War, a diminutive, middle-aged New England woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe began publishing serial installments of a book—Uncle Tom’s Cabin—that would change the United States and the rest of the world forever. This woman, of whom Abraham Lincoln apocryphally referred to as, “that little lady who started [the Civil] War,” may have been slight of stature, but she possessed a courageous heart and a formidable pen.

Albeit a work of fiction, her expository novel courageously unveiled the truth about the horrors of Southern slavery.  Bereft of formidable financial resources or palpable political power, this ordinary citizen with extraordinary talents and vision galvanized a growing anti-slavery sentiment that further fomented the cultural embers of her time, which eventually burst into the flame that ignited Southern artillery against the Union on April 12, 1861, marking the beginning of the American Civil War.    

Four years later—almost to the day—the guns fell silent at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.  At a cost of 600,000 soldiers, the Union had won the costliest war in American history.  Defeated, the South was forever stripped of the pernicious practice Stowe had so deftly damned in her stirring tale. Time had run out for Simon Legree and his foul pedigree; the scales of justice had finally tipped in favor of existential equality and liberty.  Stowe’s literary masterpiece, backed by the hard power of Union military might and the political courage of President Abraham Lincoln had stamped out the darkest sin of our young Republic. 

Stowe in her later years
A thoroughly authentic woman with a single-minded purpose, Stowe wrote:    
“I wrote what I did because … I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity – because as a lover of my country, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.” [1]
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jane Smiley, has framed Stowe’s legendary literary contribution as a tool for “effect[ing] positive change.”   
“Literature should help us face responsibilities not avoid them. Stowe’s words changed the world: her bravery as she picked up her pen inspires us to believe in our own ability to effect positive change.” [2] 
Dr. Jordan R. Jensen – author, speaker, poet, philosopher, and historian, has followed in the footsteps of Stowe with the publication of a groundbreaking new book that aims to join other literary works in a historical canon that has sought throughout our nearly 230-year history to “effect positive change.” And like Stowe’s work, Jensen also aims to eradicate slavery—not the external variety that Stowe decried, which thankfully was stamped out a century-and-a-half ago, but the internal slavery of selfishness, addiction, sophistry, narcissism, hedonism, irresponsibility, and subterfuge to which each and every one of us is prone, and which is the sole cause of America's educational, cultural, social, and political decline.

Entitled Self-Action Leadership: The Key to Personal & Professional Freedom, Jensen’s book may yet prove as catalytic and transformational to the 2020s as Uncle Tom’s Cabin was to the 1860s.  And once again, the subject matter is slavery—albeit of a markedly different kind than that which Stowe tackled over eight score years ago. 

The internal “slaves” that Jensen’s book aims to “free” can be found among both sexes—and all races, religions, cultures, political ideologies, and backgrounds.  And who is the slave master – the Simon Legree of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century?  The answer is POSTMODERN philosophy.  Postmodernism—in all of its pernicious puppetry, detouring deconstruction, and sophisticated subterfuge—as well as the irresponsibility, narcissism, unprincipled chaos, cultural enfeeblement, and moral entropy it has bastardly begotten in the years following World War II lies at the very heart of the seemingly intransigent political, cultural, and moral morass in which America presently finds herself so profoundly mired. It is time to make war on the "Simon Legree" inside the hearts of all of us—including YOU and ME. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin preceded and precipitated the Civil War; what conflagration might Self-Action Leadership predate?  We don’t know for sure, although historians and generational experts, William Strauss and Neil Howe, cite the cycles of history to suggest that a national or worldwide crisis on par with the Civil War or the two World Wars looms increasingly large on the near horizon.

The “Crisis of 2020,” as these eminent scholars have dubbed it, will demand that contemporary Americans sacrifice in ways they have not yet been asked to do in their lifetimes.  It is predicted that this impending crisis “will be a major turning point in American history and an adrenaline-filled moment of trial.  At its climax, Americans will feel that the fate of posterity—for generations to come—hangs in the balance.” [3] 

This crisis will be a pivotal moment in the lifecycles of all generations alive at the time.  The sense of community will be omnipresent.  Moral order will be unquestioned with “rights” and “wrongs” crisply defined and obeyed.  Sacrifices will be asked, and given.  America will be implacably resolved to do what needs doing, and fix what needs fixing. [4]

If such a crisis is indeed coming, and if Americans are to successfully navigate the conflict – as Strauss and Howe so optimistically suggest we will – a period of preparation must begin whereby the minds of all lovers of liberty and freedom may be readied and primed for the unprecedented challenges of the ensuing conflict.  As part of this preparation, it is time for all Americans to unite in a collective rejection of postmodernism by embracing a whole new era and age – even an AGE of AUTHENTICISM – that is rooted in principle-centered conduct and a renewed acceptance of real rights and real wrongs—not denominational, partisan, or ideologically crafted rights and wrongs, but a primal, self-evident right and wrong rooted in natural law—to which all human beings must ultimately make obeisance. 

Dr. Jensen’s Self-Action Leadership provides a comprehensive field book whereby citizen soldiers (and real soldiers) can begin (or continue) the vital preparatory work that all of us must undertake in preparation to purify ourselves through the light of CONSCIENCE in order to defend our liberties, extend our freedoms, maintain our values, uphold our leadership, and win the coming conflict.  It also provides a step-by-step process by which individuals throughout the United States and World can doff the fickle facades of postmodernism and don the awe-inspiring apparel of AUTHENTICITY. 

            If you would like to review a FREE electronic (PDF) desk copy of Dr. Jensen’s groundbreaking new book, Self-Action Leadership – the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the twenty-first century – please send an e-mail with the word “YES” to:  jordan.jensen@freedomfocused.com  and we will e-mail you a DropBox link to download the manuscript prior to its hardcopy publication date later this summer.  



"In Self Action Leadership, Jordan Jensen has assembled a leadership masterpiece anchored steadfastly in true principles of philosophy and human behavior. In wonderfully written prose, Jordan reminds us of who we are and what it takes to live and lead with honor. Moreover, he challenges us to live up to the high calling of being human beings with a special mission on this Earth. To accomplish our mission, we must do two major things: grow in our sense of personal responsibility, and in turn, care for others and help them to do the same. I grappled with these two areas in a primal way during more than five years as a POW in Vietnam. Now I’m thrilled to see how Jordan has laid out SAL by using the vehicle of story to illuminate his own, unique journey of transcending adversity. In so doing, he has inspired us all to become who we are capable of becoming. Bravo!”

– Colonel Lee Ellis
U.S. Air Force Retired. Vietnam POW survivor (Hanoi Hilton). President & Founder of Leadership Freedom® LLC and FreedomStar Media.™ Author of Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

“Reading this book may be the most worthwhile thing you do this year. Its presence in the literature is a service to our Country.”

– David G.Anthony, Ed.D
Former Superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and CEO of Raise Your Hand Texas

“There is no more important contributor to your own effectiveness than how you lead yourself. If you want to learn a great deal about the latest thinking on self-leadership, read this book.”

– Charles C. Manz, Ph.D.
Nirenberg Professor of Leadership, The University of Massachusetts, and the Father of self-leadership in the Academe

“Jordan Jensen has written a thorough, intense, and illuminating autobiographical volume about how to lead self.”

– James G.S. Clawson, Ph.D.
The Darden Graduate School, University of Virginia, and author of Level 3 Leadership: Getting Below the Surface

"A deeply personal and richly emotive narrative, Self-Action Leadership takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, providing one of the most detailed and applied treatments of self-leadership concepts currently available."

– Jeffery D. Houghton, Ph.D.
West Virginia University, Associate Professor of Management, and leading self-leadership scholar

“Jensen’s message is germane to civic leaders, business professionals and workers of all kinds, educators, students, parents, and children—in short, to EVERYONE.”

– Christopher P. Neck, Ph.D.
University Master Teacher, Arizona State University

“Anyone who seeks greater insight into their inner struggles, and desires the tools to overcome those struggles—to master self—will find this book a must read!"

– Bruce H. Jackson, Ed.M., MBA, MA, Ph.D., MPA
Founder and CEO of The Institute of Applied Human Excellence, and author of Finding Your Flow: How to Identify Your Flow Assets and Liabilities—The Keys to Peak Performance Every Day




As a public speaker and professional soft-skills trainer, Dr. Jordan Jensen has addressed over 20,000 people (over 600 audiences) in 44 States, 9 Counties of Great Britain, 5 Provinces of Canada, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has authored four books and hundreds of articles in newspapers and other periodicals. He has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Utah Valley University and a Doctoral degree in Education from Fielding Graduate University. A former collegiate All-American middle distance runner, Jensen has completed 13 marathons. He lives with his wife and two children in Conroe (Houston) Texas.


FOREWORD

University Master Teacher, Arizona State University

David McCullough – that famous historian and author of our time – once remarked: “The only way to teach history, to write history, to bring people into the magic of transforming yourself into other times, is through the vehicle of the story. It isn't just a chronology. It’s about people. History is human.”

With these words in mind, Jordan Jensen’s comprehensive work on self-leadership, built on the foundation of his own, unique self-leadership history, is truly an exceptional work for two distinct reasons.

First, Self-Action Leadership applies the method of teaching outlined by McCullough. There are many good definitions and explanations of self-leadership out there, but Jordan’s work stands apart because he teaches us the concept through the vehicle of storytelling. And the wonderment of the story is that it is his own. In the pages that follow, Jensen articulately chronicles his own self-leadership successes. In doing so, he does not withhold the painful details surrounding his countless struggles and failures preceding those successes. With unusual honesty and courageous self-disclosure, he opens our eyes to our own imperfect, yet determined, humanity by providing a fascinating look into his own. In the process, he inspires us to transcend whatever adversity comes our way to eventually realize the full extent of our own life’s potential. But he does not stop at sharing his story. He goes on to utilize his narrative as a foundation for expanding self-leadership theory by introducing his own, original theory and model—the Self-Action Leadership Theory & Model.

Second, Jensen has accomplished a task that is very difficult for any author to achieve, and that is to produce a single text that is highly relevant to multiple audiences at the same time. Because of the universal applicability of basic self-leadership principles, his message is germane not only to persons struggling with OCD, depression, or other forms of mental illness, but to civic leaders, business professionals and workers of all kinds, educators, students, parents, and children—in short, to everyone. Indeed, I do believe that virtually anyone who reads this book will be able to take something away from it that will improve his or her life in a significant way. As an author myself, I am amazed at Jordan’s achievement in writing one book that carries the potential to reach such a wide variety of people—and that is the beauty of it.

This book will do much more than just teach you about Self-Action Leadership. It will cause you to think deeply about how you are currently leading your own life, and how you could lead it more effectively. More importantly, Jensen’s compelling story and courageous personal example, combined with his percipient ability to effectively teach the corresponding self-leadership principles, will inspire and motivate you to actually do something about what you will learn. In the process, it might even touch emotions in your heart that will move you to joy and tears. It takes a talented writer to do all of these things so I know you’ll enjoy reading this book. More importantly, I know you’ll come away a wiser person with an increased motivation to get moving to realize your own Self-Action Leadership potential, an opportunity we can all take full advantage of, if only we will.



Dr. David G. Anthony; CEO, Raise Your Hand Texas
AFTERWORD



When Jordan originally invited me to review an 802-page manuscript of this book, I balked a bit, wondering when I would possibly have time to review such a tome. It is interesting to note how some of life’s most important, rewarding, and ultimately enjoyable tasks initially appear so uninviting. In the end, I opted to set myself to the task, and I am so glad that I did.

As I poured through the pages, my mind soon became flooded with memories, thoughts and experiences from my four-plus decade career as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and now CEO. From then on, there was no way to put the work aside. As I reflected further on Jordan’s “Pedagogy of Personal Leadership,” I found myself wishing I had enjoyed access to the book when I was a 21-year-old teacher working with high school seniors, and when I was a 25-year-old principal working with teachers and students. 

As I continued to read, cliché’s like, “Leaders are born, not made” were removed from my gray matter and discarded. Instead, I thought of Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true,” and “Discretion is the greater part of valor.” Shakespeare got it. Furthermore, my mother’s admonition of, “How do you ever expect to be loved by others if you don’t love yourself,” could just have easily been, “How can you expect to lead others, if you can’t even lead yourself?” In short, Jordan has eloquently articulated the need for, and importance of, leadership, character, and life-skill education in American businesses, schools, and homes. More importantly, he has outlined an explicit theory, model, and pedagogy to provide leaders, educators, parents, and individuals with a tangible toolbox and roadmap for immediate application.

As I delved deeper into Jordan’s book, the passages called up a memory of an interview where I was asked, “What are the most important things you hope your students learn?” I was principal of a school at the time, and I said, “My hope is that all of our students are highly literate and numerate and understand the importance of self discipline, responsibilities, and consequences. Then, no matter what goals they set, they will have the recipe for success.” I was under thirty years of age and my comments were crude compared to Jordan Jensen’s polished presentation, but not considerably off target. 

If Jordan’s career had preceded mine and I could have used his book as a teacher, principal and superintendent, I would have positively impacted more students and teachers during my 37-year career by providing them with a key to potential success and significance. It is highly encouraging to see that this book has now been written for a new generation of leaders, educators, professionals, and students to use as a guide to their personal development. It is even more encouraging to know that its author exemplifies the principles he promotes.

I thank Jordan for inviting me to read this work. He has earned my endorsement. Reading this book may be the most rewarding thing you do this year. I hope the message of Self-Action Leadership makes its way into the minds and hearts of students, parents, and business professionals everywhere. Its presence in the literature is a service to our country.


Notes:

[1] See URL: https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/hbs/
[2] See URL: http://66753557.weebly.com/conclusion.html
[3] Strauss W. & Howe, N. (1991). Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069. New York, NY: Quill (William Morrow). Page 382.
[4] Ibid.


Article 7
The Patriotism Principle


It is that time of year again.  Yes, the clock and calendar are once again approaching the 4th of July. As you and your family, friends, neighbors, and communities begin making plans for this special holiday, we at Freedom Focused invite you to read the following article and reflect on the blessings you have been given as a citizen of the greatest nation in the history of the world.

I was blessed to grow up in a family, community, and church that understood the need for and value of patriotism. The best way we can make the world a better place is to make America -- or whatever land in which you live -- a better place, and we begin making America a better place by loving, serving, and rooting for our own country.

In the sage words of President Teddy Roosevelt:

A [person] must be a good patriot before he can be … a good citizen of the world. Experience teaches us that the average man who protests that his international feeling swamps his national feeling, that he does not care for his country because he cares so much for mankind, in actual practice proves himself the foe of mankind. … 
Now, this does not mean in the least that a man should not wish to do good outside his native land. On the contrary, just as I think that the man who loves his family is more apt to be a good neighbor than the man who does not, so I think that the most useful member of the family of nations is normally a strongly patriotic nation. [1]

Let us not fear, my fellow Americans, to shower upon our homeland all the authentic love and patriotism we can muster, and let us not aspire toward the mean or mediocre out of a concern for offending other nations. Should LeBron James lower his level of play for fear of offending other NBA players with his greatness on the basketball court? Should Steven Spielberg lower his cinematic standards for fear of appearing superior to other Hollywood directors and producers? Should Meryl Streep tone her talent down a tad so as to give a fighting chance to other female actresses? The answer is nay, Nay, and NAY! Collective greatness is the result of individual greatness, and individuals become great because they first see and are inspired by other individuals who were great in days gone by.

The patriotism principle posits that larger groups and organizations are most likely to be successful when individuals patriotically take pride in smaller units and teams of which they are a part. Individuals should strive to be the very best they can possibly be. Families, organizations, schools, and yes, countries should do no less.

Self-action leaders should take great pride in every group of which they ever play a part, as long as the group is not evil. For example, I am not just proud to be an American, I am also proud to be a native Utahn and an adopted Texan. Moreover, when I lived in Arizona, Georgia, and Washington, I was proud to be a citizen of those States. When I lived in Alberta and Newfoundland, I was a proud to be a visitor to those Provinces, and to this day, I am proud of the great country of Canada, and grateful for her loyal friendship to my country. As a result, when I hear the stirring words of “O Canada” being sung, though it is not really “my home and native land,” I nonetheless proudly sing out the words of our northern neighbor’s anthem – whose words I have memorized – in honor of the four years in which I was privileged to live in that beautiful and impressive country.

I am also proud of my Danish—and especially of my British—ancestry and heritage (while my surname is Danish, the majority of my ancestry is English and Scottish). My forbearers, while not perfect, were, in my estimation, some of the best people who ever lived. And while no other anthem or flag in the world can touch The Star Spangled Banner and the Stars and Stripes for this proud Southern Yankee, I also know the words to God Save the King/Queen, and have a special place in my heart for the Union Jack—the anthem and flag that signaled “home” to most of my distant forefathers and mothers.

I am proud to be a citizen of Conroe and Greater Houston, and I am proud of my neighborhood. I am proud to be a member of the “Jensen” family. I am proud to be a Mormon (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and I am proud of the ward and stake organizations within my Church to which I belong.

I am proud to be an alumnus of the various schools I’ve attended over the years (ten in all). I’m even proud to be an English (undergraduate) and Education (graduate) major.

I am proud to root for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football team. I am proud of my fantasy baseball team and the fact that I was the champion of my league last year (2014). Most importantly, I am proud of who I am as a human being and self-action leader.

I do not proclaim these feelings of pride because “my” groups possess any existential superiority to any other groups, or because I think you should feel patriotically for, or become involved in, the same groups as me. I merely say it but because they are my groups—the organizations and entities to which my life and work inevitably becomes a reflection.

The issue at hand is not exclusively American patriotism and greatness, or pride for any one group over another, but the spirit of patriotism and excellence for which self-action leaders must embrace if they are to be successful. Would to God that all persons from all countries loved, supported, and worked hard to ensure the excellence of their own land. Frenchmen ought to be patriots of France. Brits ought to be patriots of the UK. Brazilians ought to be patriots of Brazil. Kenyans ought to be patriots of Kenya, and so forth. And it doesn’t stop there. Everyone everywhere would do well to take pride in whatever groups of which they associate—as long as those groups stand for goodness and truth. While it is true that no group, just like no individual, is perfect, it is also true that improvement is a by-product of focusing on an individual’s or group’s strengths and potentialities, not on their weaknesses and past sins.

In the spirit of individual and collective excellence, let us, as self-action leaders, never shrink from taking pride in being the best at something either individually or collectively. For it is the best that inspires others to also become great. And it is the humility to admit one’s past failures and study those who are more successful than you are that leads to future success. I have never achieved anything of significance in my life or career from being jealous or hateful toward someone who was bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, wealthier, harder working, or more successful than I was. My success is a direct result of admiring, and then learning from those who were better than I was so that I could, in turn, improve myself and better align my behavior and develop new habits to someday achieve success of my own.

The best opportunity the rest of the world has to realize its potential is for the United States to continue its 228-year legacy of excellence by seeking to maintain its status as the greatest country in the world. Indeed, other nations are great in large measure because the United States was first great, and many nations are presently floundering in part because of the moral entropy and atrophy of leadership that, like a malignant tumor, is eating away at the roots of American exceptionalism on multiple levels.

May we take great pride in the unique exceptionalism of our august nation—not an arrogant pride borne of an erroneous sense of pseudo existential superiority, but a humble pride that will make us ever cognizant of the duties and obligations that come with being high achievers and exemplary leaders. In the process, may we do all in our power to maintain the greatness of our land, which, like erstwhile superpowers, has unfortunately begun its slide down the slippery slopes of moral entropy. If not reversed, such slipping always lands its slider in a wasteland of either mediocrity or utter destruction. Maintaining the highest standards of education, leadership, and moral and ethical living is the quickest and surest way to restore American greatness at home and abroad. It is also the best way to further empower other nations to rise to their potential. After all, would the NBA have a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant today if it didn’t have a Michael Jordan in the last generation?

Notes:

[1] From Roosevelt’s speech, Citizens in a Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.



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