High performance organizations are clear about their mission, vision, and guiding principles. On this Independence Day weekend in the U.S., it seems fitting that we revisit the mission, vision, and guiding principles of America. As intended, this belief system has served the nation well for the past 237 years. Charter documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) have been amended over the years but the fundamental values have held strong.
Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, argues that although much has changed in the U.S. over that time, especially in terms of population and production, the nation’s commitment to democracy has not waivered. He writes:
Above all, we are still, at root, a nation that believes in democracy, even if we don’t always act on that belief. And that’s a remarkable thing when you bear in mind just how much the country has changed.
Notions about how democracy should be implemented vary widely among its citizens and their legislators. Sometimes what they do does not appear to be in the best interests of all the people and some people seem to be considered more equal than others. However, over two centuries later the conversation is still about aspiring to the underlying values of the founding fathers.
The “Declaration of Independence” (written in 1776) presents the vision in its opening paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
The “Constitution” (written in 1787) presents the mission in its opening paragraph:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Guiding principles are spelled out in the “Bill of Rights”. Together, these three documents present the values of the founding fathers. Implementation of this belief system has been a struggle. But it’s the shared values, as in any sustainable organization, that have kept America from succumbing to the many internal and external threats that it has faced since July 4, 1776.