Today we, the citizens of the United States, celebrate the birthdays of our first president George Washington and our 16th, Abraham Lincoln, the president who guided our nation through the trauma of the Civil War.
Honoring these individuals should remind us of two of the most important foundational principles of our country.
Abraham Lincoln’s contribution was the elimination of slavery in the United States of America and the affirmation of the concept that “all men are created equal”.
George Washington, as everyone knows (although, I understand that the average citizen’s knowledge of history and civics is not what it used to be!), was the first President of the United States and was the leader of the military effort to separate the original thirteen original colonies from British control. Our country was founded on the idea, expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that each citizen be afforded certain “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
This was a key point in human history. For over 10,000 years human beings understood the value of social cooperation as it related to increasing the probabilities of their biologic success. Fromthis came the formation of nations, the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, etc. However, in the process, the aspirations of the majority of the participating individuals came in a distant second to the structural needs of the social organizations themselves. Large social classes of slaves, serfs, and, eventually, poorly compensated factory workers were the result. 17th and 18th century European Enlightenment philosophy led to the focus on the success of the individual and eventually the affirmation of the individual rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
My book, “The Pursuit of the Personal Renaissance Experience” begins with this observation and suggests a way to make the “pursuit of Happiness” a successful pursuit.