Values That Made This Nation Great – A LESSON FOR ALL OF US
On this Independence Day week, I reflect on the American story and I ask:
What has sustained our success?
I believe the answer is a few core values. Let me explain…
If I asked you to pick the top five American values that define who we are as a nation and guide our decisions as a people, what would you say?
These are the five I would choose:
- Empowerment of the individual
- Rule of law
Since our inception, these ideals were imbued into the fabric of our founding documents – The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights.
These core values were born of the collective spirit of a migrant people who longed for liberty and freedom. They were captured by wise men and incarnated into words. These and other foundational ethos that sprang out of them have been defended by pen and blood, defined and redefined, respected and protected by each generation of Americans.
It is these principles that guide us at every juncture of the American journey and sustain every breath this nation takes.
Many other countries (and organizations) have beautifully written “core values,” but they are neither lived nor cemented into the collective consciousness of its people. They neither inform the decisions nor guide the visions. They become mere beautiful words of a national anthem or an inspiring plaque hung on a wall.
America lives the true meaning of its creeds – it at least tries to! And I believe it’s what sustains our success!
As a student of leadership, this is fascinating to me. The beauty, simplicity and elegance of the American story should be a model for all leaders, countries, and organizations, namely:
Your country, family, organization, or team should be constructed on the correct values, a few simply understood principles that can lead to forward progress. But more importantly, you have to find a way to make these values part and parcel of the journey, woven into the consciousness of your people.
Here is an example. As with any family, mine has had some successes and some failures. As I reflect on what our family values were (and still are), it gives me chills to know that even though my parents did not know this academic understanding of “core values,” they applied this very principle, and I can trace every success we have had as a family to those values.
My parents insisted over the last few decades on these principles. I chose the top five below. These were never written or plastered on the wall, but they were an ever-present theme in everything we did, spoke about, and practiced. These values were upheld by my parents without wavering. They made sure these values were followed, lived, and modeled.
- Honor God
- Love your family
- Work hard
- Aim high
I remember one long night as a medical student, my mother came to my dorm room and stayed up with me all night to encourage me – I had to study all night for an important exam the next day, and I was struggling to stay awake.
She honored education, and hard work. Any time I faltered, she insisted on showing me that there is no surrender and no retreat from these core principles! She upheld (and still upholds) the family values. (Even though she never calls them the “family values.”)
My challenge to you as a leader (and as a parent) is to answer these questions:
- What are the top five values that:
- My life is built upon?
- My team is built upon?
- My family is built upon?
Be honest! Have the courage to redefine and rework those values if you think corrections need to be made.
Success will come to you when and only when the fabric of the unit you lead is laced with the right values which are lived daily, taught constantly, and referred to regularly to light the road ahead.
I salute the memory, wisdom and courage of those who wrote The Declaration of Independence – the document whose signing we celebrate today.
I salute the people of this nation who aim to perfect their understanding and application of liberty and equality, and how to celebrate the dignity of humanity.
I salute those who defend our American values by thought, deed, pen, voice, or blood.
Happy Independence Day to you all!
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