Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, US Constitution

On September 17, 1787, delegates lined up to put their names on the document they had agonized over for the last four sweltering months in the Pennsylvania State House. Through it all, James Madison sat near the front of the delegates' meeting hall taking notes in his own shorthand of all the debates, discussions, and final compromises that made it into the document.
Three delegates refused to sign in the very end, holding out for a Bill of Rights. Others of the original 55 representatives from 12 states had drifted away or left in disgust. Rhode Island was not represented. It had refused to participate. Despite everything, with political divides as deep as any today, the remaining delegates signed and sent the new Constitution to Congress to pass on to State ratifying conventions.
Visualize Benjamin Franklin in his eighties, overweight and crippled with a gout attack. He asks James Wilson to read his remarks, which are addressed directly to the handful of delegates who announced they would not sign the Constitution.

I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present…[H]aving lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged…to change opinions even on important subjects…[T]he older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and pay more respect to the judgment of others…I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would … doubt a little of his own infallibility…and put his name to this instrument.

Franklin speaks down the centuries to leaders. Although the three reluctant delegates were not swayed that day, Franklin captured a key element of great leaders. They all know they make bad decisions sometimes. They know they are fallible and question their preconceived notions.
As our presidential election draws near, the attack ads continue relentlessly, and candidates play fast and loose with the facts, heed Franklin's advice. Celebrate this Constitution and pay more respect to the judgment of others.
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To find out more about this important day in U.S. history, the strategic planning and leadership of the framers, and the wisdom of today's strategic leaders, read Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. (This link takes you to a special page for a special offer not available publicly.)


1 comment:

Gary Greenfield said...

Aaah, the power of objectivity rather than animosity. Great example of "make a decision and make it right." From my view, they got it right. Today, our politicians need to "do it right."