This blog’s purpose

My name is Dean Forman and I am thrilled that you have found me here. I’ve titled this site Leading a Revolution in Education because the right education has the power to lead change in a person, a community, and a country. 

I am passionate about our beautiful country and the liberties we enjoy. I don’t believe that those liberties are a given for future generations unless we are committed as citizens now to understand them and to protect them.

This website is dedicated to sharing the principles of an American Classical Leadership Education® with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past.

This site is dedicated to learning, discovery, discussion, and ultimately acting. Together we will travel back in time to dive deep into the minds of the most important philosophers, authors, and leaders to have ever lived. I have spent years of my life studying their words. The truths I’ve learned have inspired and changed me, and I know they will change you, too.

In addition to looking back, we will examine the events of this moment in time. There are things happening in our world and country that demand our immediate attention. The wisdom and virtues of the works from the past will inform the actions that we can take together to preserve our current liberties.

Share this site with a friend or close family member. We will learn here. We will be edified together. 

And if this all sounds a little heady, don’t worry. We will have a little fun as well with contests, prizes, and plenty of connection and interaction with new friends. 

Your friend,

Dean Forman

Is There Not a Cause?

A paradigm is how we view the world around us. A paradigm shift is an “Aha” moment when our perspective changes. We observe this in the story of David and Goliath. A young shepherd named David is sent by his father to take food to his brothers who are afraid to fight this 9.5 foot plus tall “giant” of a man as he thrashes them with his verbal insults. Their perspective and paradigm are they have no one big or strong enough to fight this giant! David is astounded that there is not one man, including King Saul, who is willing to defend the honor and God of Israel. Exasperated by their doubts, David remarks, “Is there not a cause?” David then tells King Saul of his plan to fight Goliath. Saul remarks, “thou art but a youth and he is a man of war from his youth!” David responds that he has kept and defended his father’s sheep for years and even slew a lion and a bear in defense of his flock. There was the paradigm shift. Everyone was afraid of the size and skill of Goliath. Instead David was thinking, HOW CAN I MISS!? He is so big I can’t miss hitting him just like I did with the lion and the bear! (1 Samuel 17:4-54 Bible KJV)

Education is our cause! Have you had your personal educational paradigm shift? I saw such a shift this summer with the courage of a young family in Southern Oregon with a tenacious mother that wanted a charter school in her town. When the bureaucracy ganged up on her and the other parents and denied them; they shifted their paradigm. They built a private school that most of the children in that town now attend. Micro-schools, home schools and charter schools continue to lead the way in post-COVID education. Parents and especially mothers have planted their maternal flags in the ground that their children and the education of such belong to them, not the state. How do we sustain such a bold yet natural, self-evident truth? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks stated, “To defend a country you need an army. But to defend a free society you need schools. You need families and an educational system in which ideals are passed on from one generation to the next, and never lost, or despaired of, or obscured. There has never been a more profound understanding of freedom. It is not difficult, Moses was saying, to gain liberty, but to sustain it is the work of a hundred generations. Forget it and you lose it.” Education is not a one-time event, it is a process and a character shift. It is generational thinking. It is understood that we are planting shade trees by building educational sanctuaries for children becoming great citizens and souls that will produce the shade of which we may never personally repose. It is generational thinking that is required to sustain liberty and families into the future.

One of my educational paradigm shifts came some 20-25 years ago. I was listening to a mentor, Oliver DeMille, talking about the founding fathers and our country. He noted that most were self-educated and set aside their business and personal interests to give to their communities and country. This is what they termed “public virtue”. A few years later Oliver asked me and others, “What are you doing for your grandchildren?” I did not have any grandchildren at the time, but I knew that my answer had to do with education. The shift was to stop dwelling on today and to think about the world my grandchildren would one day inherit. I thought to myself, what will I tell my posterity about the difficulties of our times? What did I do to build sanctuaries of learning, faith, and freedom? 

Earlier this year our family took a trip to Boston. Near the city of Quincy is Penn’s Hill. It was the place where Abigail Adams  took a very young John Quincy Adams to observe the Battle of Bunker Hill some 10-15 miles in the distance. She wrote of that day, “The day, perhaps the decisive day is come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting heart must find vent with my pen.” That was a paradigm shift seeing the world and place they lived would never be the same. John Quincy wrote of that day, In 1846 John Quincy Adams recalled, “The year 1775 was the eighth year of my age. Among the first fruits of the War, was the expulsion of my father’s family from their peaceful abode in Boston, to take refuge in his and my native town of Braintree…. For the space of twelve months my mother with her infant children dwelt, liable every hour of the day and of the night to be butchered in cold blood, or taken and carried into Boston as hostages, by any foraging or marauding detachment of men, like that actually sent forth on the 19th. of April, to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams on their way to attend the continental Congress at Philadelphia. My father was separated from his family, on his way to attend the same continental Congress, and there my mother, with her children lived in unintermitted danger of being consumed with them all in a conflagration kindled by a torch in the same hands which on the 17th. of June lighted the fires in Charlestown. I saw with my own eyes those fires, and heard Britannia’s thunders in the Battle of Bunker’s hill and witnessed the tears of my mother and mingled with them my own, at the fall of Warren a dear friend of my father, and a beloved Physician to me. He had been our family physician and surgeon, and had saved my fore finger from amputation under a very bad fracture….”(https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0150)

Have you had your educational paradigm shift as to what matters most? Education is where you will find it. Your soul is where you will nurture it. Your actions are where you will sustain it. 

Abraham Lincoln, Second Father of a Nation

As I left Illinois last week with my family, we stopped in Springfield to see the museum and home of Abraham Lincoln. As I soaked in the information and atmosphere, I was caught up in the magnanimity of the moments of sorrow and triumph in the life of this patriot.

First consider his name. It is fitting that Lincoln’s name was Abraham. It is a name with great meaning—father of a multitude or many nations.

Prophetic Name

How did he live up to this prophetic name? The year was 1863. During the Civil War, Lincoln marked the path of not only preserving the Union but building on that Union. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1. The proclamation declared that “all persons held as slaves” in the states having seceded from the Union “are, and henceforth shall be free.” Just as Abraham was the father of many nations, Lincoln would need to be, as time went on, the father of at least two—our nation before the civil war and our nation after.

Gettysburg Address

Six months after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Confederate forces invaded the North and were met by Union forces at a little town called Gettysburg. For three days the two sides fought a ferocious battle that cost some 60,000 lives. Such a human sacrifice was unfathomable. To remember this day, on November 19th about 15,000 spectators gathered to honor this event. For many his remarks were a disappointment. He was preceded at the podium by the eminent lecturer Edward Everett from Harvard who addressed the crowd for two hours. Lincoln’s remarks had been drafted in ink and some in pencil after his arrival there. He then delivered his comments in about two minutes before the photographer could even record the event. The shocked crowd politely applauded. Lincoln whispered to his aide: “That speech went sour.” The Chicago Times called it “silly, flat and dishwatery.” However, Edward Everett wrote this, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

Gettysburg address delivered at Gettysburg Pa. Nov. 19th, 1863.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. “But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Central Idea

What was the central idea, or ideas, of the Gettysburg Address? Ponder the words “conceived in liberty”…..”so conceived can long endure.” Certainly, the use of that word suggests birth, rebirth or born again. Dedication is another repeated word—dedication to the equality of all men, dedication of a resting place for the dead, and dedication to the unfinished work of freedom. “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Conceived in liberty for constant renewals and rebirths of freedom—this vision and “second founding” of America now has the oldest written constitution the free world has ever known.

Second Inaugural Address

A year and a half later after being reelected, Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address which would come to be known as A Psalm of the Nation. What is a psalm? It is a sacred song of praise. “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered ~ that of neither has been answered fully…..Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” What was the theme? Healing and hope, malice toward none, charity for all, and the binding up of our wounds.

Belongs to the Ages

Less than one week after the surrender and on Good Friday of Easter weekend, Lincoln was assassinated. As he expired that day Secretary of War Stanton whispered, “Now he belongs to the ages.” A few weeks later his body lay in state in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois for viewing. This museum has a replica of that Hall of Representatives in the Old State Capitol. It says, “As you pass through this room, take a moment to reflect on our country’s stormy past and remember the sacrifices made, not only by Lincoln but by the many individuals throughout our history who fought and bled and died for our shared ideals.”

Lincoln’s bold actions saved a nation, thus becoming a second father to our country. That nation and its constitution continue to be beacons of freedom and liberty to the rest of the world.


Image attribution: Lincoln’s address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, November 19, 1863

A Statesman and a Patriot Guided by Principles and Providence: A Look at the Life of Ulysses S. Grant

As we end our month of patriots, I must share a special place we found on our recent travels celebrating one of America’s greatest. It is the Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site found in Grantwood Village, Missouri. What a place to visit! The life of Hiram Ulysses Grant was a true message of Providence and Patriotism. 

Ulysses S. Grant was a true statesman, a hero and patriotic American. What he was not? He was not a “politician.”

Here’s what I mean. First, he had a bedrock of principles. Second, he had a strong moral compass. He expected America to live up to the principles of its founding documents. Third, he had a vision of harmony for the country. Fourth, he knew how to build consensus to support those principles and his vision. We know, in part, how committed he was to his principles because of the tenuous relationship he held with his wife’s family due to their southern sympathies for the institution of slavery. Grant had many weighty conversations with his father-in-law that would not dissuade the statesman from his principles on slavery and equality.

Here’s a deeper look at the life of the man who would impact the future direction of our country by staying true to its founding principles.

Providence and Principles

Grant’s life honored principles around family, country, justice, education, neighbor and friend. Grant lived by a principle with universal application: When we obey true principles, Providence will open doors for us. As an adult Grant started out in the military, first graduating from West Point and then serving in the Mexican American War as a quartermaster. Ultimately, the military life would not be able to support his desires or ambition. He resigned and retreated to marriage and civilian life in 1854 eventually working for his father in a tannery. Grant’s friend Hoyt Sherman wrote, “He had abandoned military life to take up civil pursuits, and, with a persistence characteristic of the man, had tried one after another occupation, his principle ambition then being only the support of his family, and failed in all. Such experience with most men would have resulted in a soured disposition and a feeling of disappointment tending to discourage all future effort. Not so with Grant.”

Back in the Military

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Grant volunteered in his community and re-entered the military as a colonel of his local regiment. He advanced quickly in rank based on his meritorious actions and military victories. He soon made general of the forces in the west, followed quickly with a rise in rank to general of all U.S. military forces. It is not a stretch to say he became the hero, rebuilder, and healer of a shattered nation. After the war he recognized that slavery had to be eliminated in more ways than merely on the battlefield. He ran for president and afterwards became the architect of the 15th Amendment which granted the right to vote to former slaves.  Grant seemed to always make the best of any situation whether as a military man, civilian, or president. He did things with dignity, justice and honor always doing what he knew to be right. 

Integrity of Soul 

Grant was a devoted and faithful husband to his wife. At the end of his life he lost all his fortune being swindled by his son’s business partner. Financially ruined, Grant began writing his memoirs for the money it provided. He soon discovered he enjoyed writing and threw himself into his work. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with throat cancer and realized the book was his last opportunity to provide for Julia’s financial security. Admitting the irony to his physician he said, “I had been adding to my book and to my coffin. I presume every strain of the mind or body is one more nail in the coffin.” He passed one week after completing this work–a last mortal struggle and victory for his wife and family. He was a noble and dignified warrior to the end. He said of his memoirs, “The first volume as well as a portion of the second, was written before I had reason to suppose I was in a critical condition of health. Later I was reduced almost to the point of death… I have, however, somewhat regained my strength, and am able, often, to devote as many hours a day as a person should devote to such work.” The work paid off handsomely for Julia and she did not have to beg or worry about her future. 

Patriot and Public Servant

Grant’s life principles surrounded the ideas of family, country, public service. 

“First his father instilled a sense of equality of all men as a moral right. Second, West Point strengthened his conviction of duty and fidelity to flag and Constitution.” 

“Whatever may have been my political opinions before I have but one sentiment now. That is, we have a Government, and laws and a flag and they must all be sustained.” 

To son Jesse he said in April 1861, “There are but two parties now, Traitors and Patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter, and I trust the stronger party.” 

Jesse would say of his father, “Patriotism and loyalty are not uncommon. But in my memory of him, and in his record, father’s uncompromising patriotism, his absolute, self-sacrificing loyalty, stand out as dominant characteristics…..Right or wrong, his country came first, and he supported it with all he had, regardless of his personal opinions or of the consequences to himself…He served with patriotic singleness of purpose.” We need patriots, healers, and heroes today. 

Family His First Love

Grant’s primary motivation was his love of family and desire to be with them. “General Grant…loved his family. He seemed happiest in his home circle surrounded by his devoted and loving wife and his children and grandchildren. I have never seen an instance of greater domestic happiness than that which existed in the Grant family.” He told his wife after completing his memoirs, “With the knowledge I have of your love and affection and the dutiful affection of all our children. I bid you a final farewell, until we meet in another and, I trust, better world.” As death approached Ulysses was surrounded by all he held most dear. 

A Future Prophecy

Note Grants prescient observation on the future of our country in these words: “If we are to have another contest in our national existence I predict that the dividing line…will not be Mason Dixons but between patriotism, & intelligence on the one side, & superstition, ambition, & ignorance on the other….Resolve that either the state or the Nation, or both combined, shall support institutions of learning…sufficient to afford to every child growing up in the…land the opportunity of a good common school education.” 

America’s Greatness—Her People

“The [American]…people sympathize with all people struggling for liberty and self-government; but….we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations and from taking and interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local. The principles of respecting sovereignty and separatism should prevail over isolationism and seclusion.” He noted that he was never as happy in life as when he left the White House. He “felt like a boy getting out of school.”

Ulysses Grant is an example of a great statesman and patriot. He was someone who saw where the world was, where it needed to be, and then worked tirelessly to move forward the cause of ordered liberty. 

We need heroes, healers, and patriots today. Where will we find them? How will they be prepared to lead our communities and nation? 

Real Religion and Real Education Build Servant Leaders

As we observe a challenging world and a changing culture around us, I reflected this week on something I read years ago. It was a speech entitled “God is the Gardner” by Hugh B. Brown and it changed my life forever. In it he quoted Reverend Earl L. Riley of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City.

“Pericles founded his civilization upon common culture, and it failed. Caesar founded his civilization upon law, and it failed. Alexander founded his civilization upon power, and it also failed. But our forefathers knew that any other basis than religion and education, the two greatest forces in the world, would be inadequate as a basis upon which to build a civilization. And if it were built upon anything less than real religion and good education, we would have only an artificial structure. 

Twenty-three of the first twenty-four universities built in America were built by religious organizations. Out of 119 educational institutions east of the Mississippi, 103 of them were built by religious organizations. For the first 150 years in America, churches provided all the institutions of higher learning. From these halls came leaders of thought and champions of liberty who made our republic possible.

Jefferson was an alumnus of William and Mary, and James Madison of Princeton. Alexander Hamilton was an alumnus of what is now Columbia University. It is interesting to note that all but eight of the fifty-five who signed the Declaration of Independence, and most of those who wrote the Constitution, breathed the atmosphere of church-supported institutions of learning.

Thomas Jefferson declared that people cannot be ignorant and free. The founding of the University of Virginia was the crowning achievement of his life.

Benjamin Franklin rejoiced that he was the founder of the University of Pennsylvania. George Washington left a $50,000 bequest, and Washington and Lee University was the recipient of that legacy.

The early leaders of church and state in America were the products of schools begun by orthodox Christianity. Sixteen of the first eighteen presidents were college graduates from church-related institutions of higher learning. Seven of the first chief justices of the Supreme Court were college graduates of church-related schools.” Brown, H. B. (2022, May 16). God is the Gardener. BYU Speeches.

What is it that has the power to heal our hearts, homes, and culture? Where do we find such “real religion and good education?”

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language describes the two this way:

Real Education

EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

Note the key words in this passage: series of instruction, discipline, enlighten understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits of youth, fit them for usefulness in their future, arts and science. Aristotle taught that “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” He went further as to say, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”

Real Religion

RELIGION, n. relij’on. [L. religio, from religo, to bind anew; re and ligo, to bind.] This word seems originally to have signified an oath or vow to the gods, or the obligation of such an oath or vow, which was held very sacred by the Romans.

Note the words to bind anew which come from the Latin religo which comes from our English term “ligature” or to sew, if you will, and bind back to God.

Consider this definition found in James 1:27 from the King James Bible: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

What vows have you made to God? To your neighbor?

What will you found your life, marriage, or family on? Will you succeed as well as you might without the two pillars of real education and real religion?

There is a term I have learned to love over the years. It is servant leader.

Outcome: A Servant Leader

Robert K. Greenleaf said, “The great leader is seen as servant first.” A servant leader is a servant first, driven by an inner compass of virtues or core values, with a natural desire to serve and empower others. This is not about being subservient but about sincerely wanting to help others by identifying and meeting needs.

Moral Compass

A servant leader has the gift of persuasion through moral authority (the principled use of natural virtues unique to them for the benefit of others) and also positional authority. Titles, credentials and degrees give only the opportunity to lead but it is the actions on behalf of others that can command, inspire moral behavior, and motivate change in others. A servant leader has submitted himself to his or her higher nature and asks, “What is wanted of me?”

Clear Vision

A servant leader has vision. He or she has knowledge of the past, recognizes what is needed to improve one’s life, family, community and world, and acts to bring about a better future for others.

Obeys True Principles

A servant leader applies true principles such as public and private virtue, natural law, liberty, life, personal responsibility, and more.

Builds Community

A servant leader has the ability to build coalitions and inspire others to follow as first among equals. They see where things are in their condition, as well as where they should be, and then they insert themselves to voluntarily move self and others toward the ideal. They model what they teach. They become leaders because of their examples and influence.

A servant leader understands that life is not just a quest for pleasure or power but of meaning. Meaning and happiness are found when one is dedicated to a cause greater than oneself. The servant nature is not bestowed and cannot be taken away; it is is deep inside oneself. Once this is recognized the servant chooses to lead intentionally. Servant leadership is about becoming.

The Difficult Truth

If we do not begin to educate ourselves and inspire our children with intent, we will continue to relinquish the privilege of self-government by putting ourselves at the mercy of a few “experts” until the disappearing democratic ideals upon which our nation was founded are completely lost and our American civilization is relegated with, and to, those that have fallen.

America, God Shed His Grace on Thee

We have learned what our early American heroes and patriots prophetically did and wrote to proclaim and ensure liberty in their great experiment. But what did a few of those in Great Britain write concurrent with those times—in many instances with prophetic foresight? Why did they think America would win independence and succeed?

For this I have turned again to our little book Prophetic Voices Concerning America written by Charles Sumner and printed in 1874.

The Great Disruption

A young French philosopher and Jesuit Abbé Raynal wrote these observations in 1770:

“So everything conspires to produce the great disruption of which we are not permitted to foresee the precise time. Everything tends thither,—the progress of good in the new hemisphere and the progress of evil in the old. Alas! The prompt and rapid decline of our morals and our strength, the crimes of kins and the sufferings of the people, will render universal this fatal catastrophe which must detach one world from the other. The mine is preparing beneath the foundations of our rocking empires….While our people are weakening and succumbing to each other, population and agriculture are increasing in America. The arts transported by our care will quickly spring up there. The country derived from nothing, burns to figure in turn upon the face of the globe and in the history of the world. O posterity! Thou wilt be more happy, perhaps, than thy unfortunate and contemptible ancestors!”

The Fate of America is Cast

This from David Hartley who was signatory to the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War. He noted this in 1775:

“The fate of America is cast. You may bruise its heel, but you cannot crush its head. It will revive again. The new world is before them. Liberty is theirs. They have possession of a free government, their birthright and inheritance, derived from their parent state, which the hand of violence cannot wrest from them. If you will cast them off, my last wish is to them, May they go and prosper!”

He Who Governs Least May Govern Best

A large part of the agitation and grievances voiced by the colonies stemmed from their lack of freedom to self-govern.  Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, and who was also friends with Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton noted in 1773:

“And the success they have met with ought to be to us a memorable proof that the true art of government consists in not governing too much.”

How Prosperous Will They Become?

“The colonies of North America have not only taken root and acquired strength but seem hastening with an accelerated progress to such a powerful state as may introduce a new and important change in human affairs.”

“The vast continent itself, over which they are gradually spreading, may be considered a treasure yet untouched of natural productions, that hereafter shall afford ample matter for commerce and contemplation. And if we reflect what a stock of knowledge may be accumulated by the constant progress of industry and observation…it is difficult even to imagine to what height of improvement their discoveries may extend.”

Economic Result

Perhaps the most prescient economic work of 1776, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith opened wide the doors of this new experiment. While the verbal jousting and debate was in full swing in 1776 he suggested there should be proportionate taxation and representation in parliament that would eventually result in the transfer of empire.

“The distance of America from the seat of government, the natives of that country might flatter themselves, with some appearance of reason too, would not be of very long continuance. Such has hitherto been the rapid progress of that country in wealth, population, and improvement, that, in the course of little more than a century, perhaps, the produce of America might exceed that of British taxation. The seat of the empire would then naturally remove itself to that part of the empire which contributed most to the general defense and support of the whole.”

Harmonizing Happiness

To this last question I now pivot. What is the formula that will continue this experimental climb in self-governance, prosperity, and happiness?

In a letter to Zabdiel Adams dated June 21, 1776 John Adams wrote: “Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain lasting liberty.”

Twenty-two years later his perspective had not changed. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Military Address October 11, 1798 

Thirteen years later, fundamental truths have not changed: “Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society.” John Adams letter to Benjamin Rush, 1811  

I end with this observation in a letter from Adams to Jefferson July 8, 1813:

“While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill—little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.”

Any advancement we have made over the millennia is due in great part to the prodigious individuals of the founding era. They educated themselves in history, philosophy, and morality to discover and harmonize the principles of free government. Absent our doing the same we cannot and will not maintain the level of happiness we now enjoy.

Image credit: A correct view of the late battle at Charlestown: June 17th, 1775 by Robert Aitken

Prophetic Voices Concerning America

It is one thing to declare independence from something or someone. It is quite another thing to succeed. Why did the founders believe this experiment of “all men being created equal” would succeed!?

A few years ago, while in Vermont for the fall colors Linda and I stumbled on a used bookstore where we found some treasures. One was a gem entitled Prophetic Voices Concerning America by Charles Sumner that was printed in 1874. With special interest I noted that pages 51-62 were devoted to none other than the prophecies of John Adams from 1755-1818.

In John Adams’ preface to his “Defence of the American Constitution” written while in London in 1787 he said, “A prospect into futurity in America is like contemplating the heavens through the telescope of Herschel. Objects stupendous in their magnitudes and motions strike us from all quarters and fill us with amazement.”

I don’t believe anyone could argue with this prophecy now 236 years old. He similarly wrote to Thomas Jefferson dated November 15, 1813, “Many hundred years must roll away before we shall be corrupted. Our pure, virtuous, public-spirited, federative republic will last forever, govern the globe, and introduce the perfection of man.” How are we doing with our pure, virtuous, and public-spirited republic? Let’s trace this prophetic history that Adams laid down.

Transfer of Power to America

As a young schoolteacher of nineteen years of age in Worcester in 1855, while speaking of the rise and fall of Carthage and Rome Adams noted. “England began to increase in power and magnificence, and is now the greatest nation of the globe. Soon after the Reformation, a few people came over into their New World for conscience sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire to America. It looks likely to me;…..according to exactest computations will in another century, become more numerous than England itself…..since we have all the naval stores of the nations in our hands it will be easy to obtain the mastery of the seas; and then the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us.”

The Hand of Providence

In Adams’ dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law from the Boston Gazette in August of 1768, “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”

The Declaration of Independence and Two Countries Forever Separated

In a letter to his wife Abigail dated July 3, 1776 he wrote, “Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men…. I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. Britain has been filled with folly, and America with wisdom. At least this is my judgment. Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever…The day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn act of devotion to God Almighty.”

America is a Blessed Land

“The United States of America are a great and powerful people, whatever European statemen may think of them. If we take into our estimate the numbers and the character of her people, the extent, variety, and fertility of her soil, her commerce, and her skill and materials for shipbuilding, and her seamen, excepting France, Spain, England, Germany, and Russia, there is not a state in Europe so powerful. Breaking off such a nation as this from the English so suddenly, and uniting it so closely with France, is one of the most extraordinary events that ever happened among mankind.”

America Capable of Being the Most Independent Country Upon Earth

America had no credit and no money. How could she survive a war of 6, 8 or 10 years was the question posed by the Dutch as Adams asked for a loan for the war effort. His reply: “This is an extreme case….I have heard the common farmers in America reasoning upon this….if Great Britain could build a wall of brass a thousand feet high all along the sea-coast, at low-water mark, we can live and be happy. America is most undoubtedly capable of being the most independent country upon earth. It produces everything for the necessity, comfort, and convenience of life, and many of the luxuries too. So that if there were an external separation between Europe and America, the inhabitants of America would not only live but multiply, and, for what I know be wiser, better and happier than they will be as it is.”

English to be the Universal Language

“English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of he world than Latin was in the last of French in the present age. The reason of this is obvious,—because the increasing population in Americas, and their universal connection and correspondence with all nations, will, aided by the influence of England in the world, whether great or small, force their language into general use, in spite of all the obstacles that may be thrown in their way, if any such there should be.”

America to Give the Law to Europe and be the Breadbasket of the World

“Yes, but if America becomes free, she will some day give the law to Europe…..”

“America for many centuries to come will be landed, and her chief occupation agriculture….”

The Experiment is Made and Has Completely Succeeded!

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature…..Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. The experiment is made and has completely succeeded.”

Unity around the principles of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equality, have produced astonishing results. Many are still clamoring to come here. Will we continue in unity to honor these highest of all principles or will we relegate them to the ash heap of destruction as with Greece, Carthage, Rome, and Europe? These were Adams’ prophetic thoughts on this beautiful land we call America.

Take one of his revelatory principles and use it. As you celebrate the 4th of July, a solemn act of devotion to God Almighty for his superintending Providence over this land and an expression of gratitude for men like Adams and Jefferson—who both died on July 4th, 1826—may also be in order.

The Declaration of Independence Today

The Declaration of Independence changed lives and ultimately created a nation. The American Colonists declared independence from the greatest power of that time, England. They proclaimed that all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In today’s world, however, is its usefulness behind us? Far from it!

To start, let’s explore further the rationale for The Declaration of Independence. The document advanced 28 grievances of the colonists against the incursions of the king in making, judging and executing laws or taxing them with little or no colonial representation. Every single remonstrance dealt with an abuse or concentration of more than one of the three powers in the hands of the king/governor, legislature, or judge. Aristotle suggests when you combine the tyranny of royalty with the oligarchy of the rich and the democracy of the needy it was impossible to reach the common good of all (William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, p. 111). This was the impasse of that moment—and of many since.

Rebellion was the last choice for the colonists, but inevitably the final solution after a “long train of abuses and usurpations resulting in absolute Despotism.” Independence from Great Britain was a difficult thing to conceive and obtain because many of the colonists thought of themselves as British citizens. This is why Jefferson lamented that there were relational “ties of common kindred and consanguinity,” meaning family and/or of the same blood. As the Declaration of Independence reveals, these colonists were well read and their leaders were educated in the philosophy, histories and political forms of Greece and Rome. They were scholars of the classics. Ultimately, however, these courageous pioneers and patriots appealed to a higher power than that of kings, parliaments or judges. They would not forget their allegiance to the God of Nature and Nature’s God in any step taken as he was a higher authority than the King or his government.

Even as the circumstances became increasingly unsustainable, the colonists could not at first conceive of revolution, but after careful consideration a thoroughly organized notion arose.  To ensure success, the question that must be answered correctly, they decided, was the following: Ultimately who could and would create, legislate, execute and judge their cause?

In the Declaration of Independence they answered this question and laid down their explanation of why they could lawfully rebel and where they would turn. They directed their hearts and heads to an appeal of natural law—or right reason in agreement with nature  and Nature’s God was for equality. In an uncompromising manner, a higher power was identified as the sole Creator of the three unalienable rights. Therefore, justice could only be dispensed in looking to the Supreme Judge for the rectitude of their intentions, and to the protection of divine Providence to execute their path. “Where there is no judicature on earth to decide controversies amongst men, God in Heaven is judge” (William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, p. 454).

The principles, rights and duties within the Declaration of Independence were then signed in a solemn, courageous act pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. John Adams shared the events of that memorable day with his wife Abigail from Philadelphia on July 3, 1776: “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epoch, in the history of America. —I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other from the Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm, but I am not. —I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. —Yet through all the Gloom I can see that End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

It was these bold patriots with, their deep philosophical principles and generational thinking, that gave my wife Linda and I the determination and courage to seek new educational guards, or academies for the teaching of our own posterity. But how or where to begin?

As I pondered Jefferson and his words in the Declaration of Independence, my mind turned to how the power of his words might apply today.

Just before his passing, Thomas Jefferson penned his own epitaph: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” If Jefferson were alive today, he might change the order in which these are stated. Independence has been won. Religious freedom has been established. However, the implementation of ongoing traditional liberal arts education in elementary, secondary and schools and universities that will effectively maintain independence and self-governance is still a work in progress. Education has gone through several ups and downs during America’s history but has not become what Jefferson envisioned. Not yet.

John Adams insights about the revolution he expressed to Jefferson in a letter dated August 24, 1815. “What do We mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.

A similar educational revolution has been fomenting in the hearts and minds of parents. It has been increasing for decades. As parents have been excluded from life-altering decisions on their children many have exclaimed, “Whose Children Are They!?” only to lament and now declare:

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for Parents to dissolve the educational bands which have connected them with others, and to assume among the Powers of the State, the separate and equal station to which the laws of California and of Nature’s God entitle them, a moral and decent education, the opinions and actions of the educational bureaucracy requires that we should declare the causes which impel us to Separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all children are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of a sound education. That to secure these rights schools are instituted for children, deriving their just powers from the parents, that whenever any form of education becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the parents to alter or to abolish it and to institute new schools, laying their foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their educational success and the future happiness of their children. Prudence indeed will dictate that schools long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that parents are more disposed to suffer while no other choice exists, except to right themselves by abolishing the one-size-fits-all approach to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of academic, economic, and moral decline reduces them without freedom of choice, it is their right, it is their duty, to disrupt and throw off such schools and provide new schools for their future success.”

We must consider the grievances done by bodies of unelected bureaucrats today writing, judging and executing regulations with despotic powers concentrated into such an unelected body.

I myself am left lamenting at times with Lord Acton as he did in The History of Freedom, “…the history of freedom was the history of the thing that was not…” The history of educational freedom in America is a history of something that was and is not!

Educational independence is a right owned by parents and is a pillar of familial and human happiness. The Declaration of Independence beckons to all who hold the truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be self-evident to find ways to establish, honor and uphold them today.

Image credit: John Nixon reading the Declaration of Independence to the people in front of the State House immediately after its passage,  Scan by NYPL, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor

As we soon head into the 4th of July, the most important holiday for the free world, we turn our attention to the mission statement of our country—the Declaration of Independence.

Twelve years ago, I went to Washington D.C. with my son Daniel. As part of this trip we visited the Jefferson Memorial. We stood and read all the wall panels with quotes from the Founding Father. As we concluded and were leaving, Daniel made a profound foundational connection regarding rights. He said to me, “Dad, did you read that? God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Then he said, “If God is the grantor of our liberties and rights then government cannot take them from us because they are unalienable and are a gift from a power higher than government!”

This was one of those seminal moments where an epiphany of thought laid foundational truths for his life. The importance of those same enduring principles of liberty for posterity and citizens was expressed earlier in correspondence from Jefferson himself to James Madison on August 30, 1823, “…cherish the principles of the instruments in the bosom of our own citizens: and it is a heavenly comfort to see that these principles are yet so strongly felt….I pray God that these principles may be eternal…” (Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., Collected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, v. XV, p. 464).

Inspired Truth Revealed

What are these eternal principles or truths? Where did they come from? According to Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, they came from Nature and Nature’s God.

Jefferson was likely influenced by John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government in the terms “life” and “liberty,” however he substituted so eloquently the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” in lieu of the word “property” which was preferred by Locke. But, you may be wondering, are these terms synonymous? I argue that, yes, the pursuit of happiness may be defined as the liberty we possess to discover the good life for each of us.

One way to look at it may be that as we apply our genius and virtues upon property that we both create and improve, we find happiness. With that in mind, did Jefferson discover a new right or one that just builds on that of property? It appears this might be another way of expressing the term property, but in a broader context.

Rights Are Not Invented But Revealed

Jefferson commented that his role was to harmonize the political thinking of his day: “This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.” (Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., Collected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, v. XVI, p. 118).

But what exactly were these ancient rights? There are a multitude of rights that exist, some of which include the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, assembly, self-defense, self-government, free conscience, etc.—but all liberties may be conceived as the consequence of the three greatest rights which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Do not forget, however, that included in that concept is the reciprocal—the violation of these rights justifies a penance, punishment, or forfeiture of such liberty upon the perpetrator. According to John Locke in Two Treatises of Government, these natural rights actually precede government. Therefore, when people create government, it is the duty of government to find the law in nature. For nature is the foundation of all law (William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, pp. 430, 444).

“True law is defined by Cicero ‘As right reason in agreement with nature’ (W. Cleon Skousen, The 5,000 Year Leap, p. 141). Indeed, as long as this “nature” includes the fundamental concept that these rights exist independent of man’s law and are gifts from the Creator to which each citizen is ultimately held accountable, this agreement with Nature’s God is in force and the real guarantor of true freedom.

The True and Divine Role of Government

We must go into the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence to find the purpose of why people coalesce and agree to come together to form government in the first place. Jefferson states that it is most likely to further the cause of safety and happiness. As Cicero points out in The Republic and The Laws, “For there is really no other occupation in which human virtue approaches more closely the august function of the gods than that of founding new States or preserving those already in existence” (William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, p. 147).

When we form government by the consent of the governed, or voting, we delegate authority to government agencies such as the military, police, firemen, etc. to keep our person and property protected. This provides our communities with safety so we can pursue happiness. What needs safeguarding? Our lives. Absent this basic protection, we would have little time to do anything other than forage for food and protect our lives and property.

Where Happiness is Found

Happiness is more fully achieved by combining time, labor, and liberty to create goodness and beauty. Labor then creates property and happiness as we put our special virtue, excellence or imprint on our posterity, professions, and property as stewards. These three broad rights are self-evident under the umbrella of all men being created equal. Equality is not the provision of granting equal things to all, but the establishment of three untransferable endowments or gifts from the Creator: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These three rights are then protected by three powers delegated by people to government: 1) to create or make laws, 2) to judge laws and 3) to execute laws. “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22 KJV). The ancients tell us if two or more of these three powers ever become concentrated into the hands of one person or body, tyranny or despotism is the likely outcome.

The Declaration of Independence is our birthright. It is our declaration of authority from the highest of all powers. It is the mission statement, vision, and outcome to the highest political end—liberty. The greatest test of good government is conformity to the principles of the highest of all legislators as Jefferson alludes to four times in the document: The Laws of Nature and “Nature’s God,” being endowed by the “Creator” with unalienable rights, appealing to the “Supreme Judge” for authority, and the protection of “divine Providence.” That is why, without hesitation, the Founders and their generation felt they could pledge their “Lives, Fortunes, and sacred Honor” to this Divine cause.

Have You Crafted Your Personal Constitution?

How do you decide what is a good use of your time? Over the weekend I attended a special event where a friend of mine shared his life’s work of 24 years. It was a musical entitled Son of Man.

Son of Man is a powerful oratorio on the life of Jesus Christ. It is one of those seminal efforts that will change the world for many who see, hear and experience it.

As I watched I asked myself, “Why would someone spend a lifetime on such a project?” The word mission came to mind. Such a mission in personal excellence may be a vocation, odyssey or ministry. Victor Frankl tells us that missions are something we detect rather than invent. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…therein he cannot be replaced nor can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is as unique as is his special opportunity to implement it.

What is your mission to do that no one else can? What does life expect of you? Life is not responsible to you. You are the responsible party to life. A mission usually takes its form in the way of a statement. When based on truth and correct principles it informs and empowers your future. It becomes an expression of your center, or as Stephen R. Covey suggests, it can be the source of your security, guidance, wisdom and power. It is your vision and what you value. In short, it is your personal constitution.

Your mission is what you can then use as a guide to order, sequence and measure everything else in your life and how you spend your time. As we sat with my 90-year-old mother yesterday we could detect at least a portion of her life’s mission to “positively and persistently overcome.” From her early years being orphaned as a child to graduating from college recently at age 90, I think those words certainly capture a bit of her mission statement.

In crafting a personal constitution or mission statement of your own, you may want to take a cue from Covey. He suggests that our center of life is where we discover our vision and values—and from there we start to draw our map of how we see the world. Our center may be what we look forward to or what drives our thoughts, words and deeds. At our center we find our special excellence. Our centers help us detect the gifts, talents and virtues that give us self-esteem, purpose and happiness.

How about you? What is your center? Centers are what we value most. They give us identity, self-esteem, directional life mapping, perspective, balance, energy, empowerment and the capacity and means to go beyond enduring to overcome. I like the centers that Covey suggests as they seem to cover most, if not all:

  • Spouse
  • Family
  • Money
  • Work
  • Possession
  • Pleasure
  • Enemy
  • Church
  • Centered on Self

When I first encountered this list, my thought was “I am many of these centers.” I was ready to mentally boast how many centers I had acquired or balanced in my life! Then as I read on, I noted it was not about leading with or balancing many centers, but about leading and becoming “PRINCIPLE-CENTERED.”

Here is the tricky part, however: our center is not our primary focus, instead it is the principles of those centers that inform and engage our focus. Our center helps us to create the end that we desire. To reach our desired end we focus on the principles that inform, guide and lead us to that end. Think back to my recently graduated mother. She needed to decide what would be her educational focus. While finishing each necessary class was the “end,” the principles she used as her center were focused thoughts, study, time use, budget, learning and use of technology. These principles harmonized to provide success for her in class and ultimately a degree.

When we are principle-centered we avoid the whims of selfishness or poor sequencing of priorities. We bring our centers of value into a harmony of purpose and unity. We are then in a position to act and not to be acted upon by people, circumstances or things because we know who we are and we know our purpose. We make inspired and informed choices. Principles provide predictability and validate the pure motives of a servant leader. I try to always ask myself two questions when I have conflicting desires or requests of my time by people, things or commitments. First, what principles govern these choices. Second, some principles are higher than others in terms of governing importance. Think of the Declaration of Independence—Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. You have to be alive to make choices, and principled choices produce happiness. Principles that are out of sequence may take longer to produce the results you desire. Think of the principles of mathematics or science that teach us the order of steps to determine correct answers.

How to begin? Ask yourself then a few trusted friends for three adjectives to describe you. These will help you detect your virtues, gifts and excellence. Next, identify what your core values are. What are your centers (see some of those mentioned above) that you value most? What are your primary roles in life? Another hint: as you consider and craft your statement, remember that there is an aspirational quality to it. Stating that you value certain characteristics or principles does not mean that you see yourself as having perfected them.

Linda and I created and embraced a family statement to help us stay centered on the right things: “Formans transcend self through reliance on God and serving others.” We identified key principles of courage, love, honesty, respect, kindness, justice, mercy, loyalty, dependability, chastity, self-reliance and moderation—all principles that we have aspired to as we’ve grown collectively and individually.

As another example, here is my personal statement: “To liberate the captive by creating servant leaders.” And here is one John Adams Academy chose: “Restoring America’s Heritage by developing servant leaders.”

Your personal constitution or mission should be unique to you, the centers and principles that order your life. You will then be better prepared and informed to execute your mission.

Habits of Happiness

In the last 50 to 100 years, education has been about getting as many facts as possible into our heads to then regurgitate it all on a test to show the subject has been mastered.

How many facts do you remember from those classes?

That’s my point, education in our era has become about getting through the class instead of internalizing the ideas through ourselves! I have suggested in prior blog posts that real education requires us to engage and immerse ourselves in the classics. A classic is a book that has a “great theme.” Is written in “noble language.” It has universality and speaks across the ages. It summarizes the virtues and values of a civilization at its apex. I also love classics because in just a few hours I can read or listen to the ideas of great leaders and thinkers—concepts that may have taken them a lifetime to understand, and yet they have distilled it perfectly for me in an entirely different age.

Perhaps you, like me, are busy. If a book, blog or podcast does not fit these criteria, I decidedly put them lower in my sequence of importance. My time, focus and energy is a precious resource. I treat it accordingly.

Liberated and Self-Governing

Education, as you have absorbed on this blog, is interminable. It is about learning how to become a liberated self-governing citizen and a soul that seeks and lives a life of happiness and joy. The natural aristocracy of discovery and learning is very human and known to all of us but achieved by few. Why?

One challenge is that shiny, new information is coming at us every moment of the day. How do you manage it all without being overloaded? How do you organize and sift through the rubble of modern ideas and minutiae to pull the most important details into ideas and use reason and common sense of truth to allow them to flourish? A practical education leads to understanding and to the application of ideas based on the principles of freedom and success.

I remember wondering what the reason was behind taking “general education” classes in college when all I wanted was to focus on was the business courses that were my passion at the time. Unfortunately, the liberal arts classes required were not drenched in much classical learning about ideas. One of my teachers scolded that I was very focused on getting through those classes and joining the business world as soon as possible. She was right! However, shortly after getting out of school and into business I found a book on cassette tape at the time, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This book turned my world upside down. Although it is a book that applied well to business for me, I found it was one that dealt more with a “way of being” or becoming than anything else. I was struck by this statement. “Between stimulus and response is a space. In this space lies our freedom to choose our response. In these choices lie our growth and our happiness.” Read and ponder that simple and powerful statement again.

The Power in Keeping Promises

The first of Covey’s three habits teach us how to obtain mastery over self. They include: Be Proactive®, Begin With the End in Mind®, and Put First Things First®. These first three habits can be summarized as I make and keep my promises to self and others. Integrity in our words and deeds is the highest form of loyalty to self and others. As my wife Linda sagely taught our children, “It is better to be trusted than liked.” Mastery over self aids us in developing integrity and becoming an individual whom others can trust. It is a private and personal victory.

The second three habits of Think Win-Win®, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®, and Synergize® aid us in relationship to others, in solving problems and working out solutions together. Executed correctly, it becomes a public victory and is a higher form of independence as it actually produces interdependence—or problem solving on a larger scale precisely because it includes others.

Principles Versus Values

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People also teaches that there is a fundamental difference between principles and values. Values govern our behavior and are internal to us. They are what we may think about people, things, or ideas. But principles govern the consequences of those choices or behaviors. Principles are Natural Laws of a Divine Universe that are external to us and dictate the consequences of our actions. Principles operate regardless of our awareness of them, acceptance of them, liking them, belief in them, or obedience to them.

We find laws in all aspects of life such as nature, mathematics, science, business, and more. Think of, for example, physics and laws of motion and thermodynamics, the formula for pi in mathematics, compound interest, budgeting, inflation, the law of gravity or the Ten Commandments.

Principles are also strongly connected to humility because as we stumble in ignorance or willfully violate laws, we realize we are not in control; therefore, we submit ourselves to true principles and law. Pride says we are in control as we act out our values, falsely believing life is a buffet and we can live it “our way”— an egotistical cry of “let me be who I am!” Therefore, we should always lead with principles and allow Natural and Divine Law to shape our values.

A key component of the classics is to teach us about these principles or laws as played out through the lives of others who have walked the road of mortality ahead of us. In classics we discover principles and virtues we wish to obey and emulate or acquire laid beside others that we discard because we know the lawful outcome.

The Key to Happiness

We each possess gifts of excellence, or as the Greeks called it arête. Using our gifts in accordance with principles of freedom to bless others is the very key to our happiness. As we use our gifts to comply with principles or laws of happiness, they shape our values and solidify our habits to become our character. As we serve others with fidelity to moral virtue, we develop integrity. The circle of acquiring these virtues is called interminable improvement or taking time to Sharpen the Saw® as Covey calls it. This is all part of what Plato suggested when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The 7 Habits is a modern classic with a call to examine your life and find balance in the virtues you develop.

A lot of us desperately desire happiness, but we are applying the “law of the school” which teaches us we can memorize a few key facts and, because of our gifts, efficiency, personality or talents, we can control the circumstances of our lives. In essence we become a person driven by convenience, situational ethics, or false values to be a certain way and regurgitate it on the stage of life as needed. The principle-informed and values-based person who has learned to obey the basic principles of effective living develops an impeccable character through obedience to principles of Natural and Divine Laws. The outcome is one of two ways: a person who has a situational “personality” façade or a person who has developed the habits of moral virtue—a “character of becoming” or of destiny.

When you are sorting out the plethora of information, develop and use the seven principles of effective people along with giving strict heed to the principles of freedom and happiness. You may be surprised what you can truly become.