Written by Michael Larsen
“One useless man is a disgrace, two are a law firm, and three or more are a Congress.”
~John Adams in the musical, 1776
Although its problems and follies measure up to its potential, the United States is the world’s last and best hope for creating a just, sustainable future. How the signing of the Declaration of Independence came about will help you appreciate the discord and oppression out of which it was forged, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.
A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people think the fighting is done and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose what the colonists fought for. The only successful revolution is one that never ends, one that keeps striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and the growing urgency of our problems.
The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. Benjamin Franklin warned that if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately. Hatred is a luxury humanity can’t afford. As poet W. H. Auden urged, “We must love one another or die.”
The poet T.S. Eliot said that politics is too serious to be left to politicians. America can only work if we the people keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive by striving to fulfill its dream of a free, just, independent, thriving country, willing to reach the compromises needed to balance opposing beliefs.
That is one lesson from the funny, wonderful, relevant Tony-winning musical, 1776, Elizabeth and I watched on the fourth. TCM shows it, and it’s also available on demand. Even this Hollywood version of a Broadway play provides timeless lessons: how divided and ineffective Congress was; the huge odds against the Declaration being signed; how one vote made the difference; and how a compromise on slavery was essential to convince southern states to sign it.
If you speak, write, or work in the other arts, your passion and your gift for capturing the challenges we face and proposing solutions will make a difference. But whatever you do for a living, you can make a greater difference than you think.
How about writing and signing the declaration of independence from what is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that don’t help you achieve your goals.
Liberating yourself is something to celebrate every day. Wherever you are in your life or your career, heed Anne Frank’s advice: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.”
Michael Larsen is a literary agent, author and co-founder of the San Francisco Writers Conference, early member and supporter of the SF Chapter of WNBA.
A longer version of this post appeared on the San Francisco Writers Conference website
September 12th, 2015
Keynote: Peter Wiley, Chairman of the Board, John Wiley & Sons
WNBA-SF Chapter is a proud sponsor and exhibitor of this conference.