Defending Our Right to Dream and Prosper

May 23, 2014

I’ve always been a fan of the Founding Fathers. Maybe it’s from my upbringing near the Philadelphia area, or the family trips we’d take to Williamsburg, Boston and other historic spots.

Since childhood, I've grown to admite people like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, largely because of their skill and courage in creating the foundation of a system of government that has stood strong now for nearly 240 years. But it also is the little details about their lives that has often fascinated me. In particular, what they did for a living and how they otherwise occupied their days. 

Franklin was a printer. And he was a scientist. And an inventor. And a writer. And a diplomat. 

Jefferson was a farmer and a lawyer who enjoyed mathematics and the violin. Washington was a soldier, a farmer and a sportsman. (And late in his life, he was a distiller of whiskey, I recently learned.)

The common thread among these men is that they had a wide range of interests and were not afraid to pursue them. Though some began their lives wealthy, many accumulated their money and status through entrepreneurial ventures.

As we’ve learned, the government and economic systems that they created eventually allowed for upward mobility and flexibility for everyone. Over time, we reached a point where even the most downtrodden citizens have been able to rise up and succeed through hard work and innovative thinking. In America, no one is forbidden from pursuing whatever passion they choose.

There is work left to be done, and we continue to have healthy debates about how to ensure all Americans are given the best chance at success. But deep down, we all believe in freedom. Freedom to dream. Freedom to work. Freedom to achieve. 

This is the spirit that drives the mission the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To support economic growth, to promote innovation, and to enhance the skills of our workforce. 

It is easy to forget that this freedom-focused philosophy has, at various times, been severely threatened. On this Memorial Day, it’s important to remind ourselves that we have relied too often on the sacrifice of a few in order to protect the comfort and dreams of the rest.