Long Distance High
It was during these training sessions that my perspective began to take shape, and I began to believe that the single most important issue in this country is not
any of the problems we hear about on the news every day, but rather that each of us, as citizens, is not living life for the greater good of all. We are not doing the small things that, when done on a day-to-day basis as the opportunities arise, keep issues
(i.e. the cracks)
from becoming so large, and thus ensure that the country will continue to be
strong and free.
While I occasionally saw her at the nursing home, she had never met my two daughters, Emily and Rachel. I wanted the girls to know Lizzie and vice versa. Many times I thought about taking them to see her, but never did. In late 1981, Lizzie died and I had failed to fulfill that dream, to allow my daughters to know their great grandmother. In her memory, I wrote a good-bye poem. Part of the poem summed up my feelings and the point of this.
"...My one regret is that Emily and Rachel you did not meet,
The lesson, seize the moment to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves or in 1990's talk, "Just Do It" really took hold of me then.
At about the mile mark, Ruffian broke her ankle. She and her rider crumpled to the ground. I watched in disbelief as the other horse and its jockey continued without stopping to comfort Ruffian or her jockey. What kind of society are we where winning and finishing are more important than comforting someone or an animal in pain? Ruffian was later "put down" - a euphemism for an animal being killed humanely after an unsuccessful attempt at surgery.
Check out this YouTube Video which shows this match race and the attempt to save Ruffian's life.
Author's Note: After reading the above story, a reader sent me a note about the 100 yard dash at the Special Olympics in Seattle a few years back. The story was verified with Special Olympics Washington. Enjoy it!
From Speech to Web Book
Those perceptions began to crystallize when, in early 1987, I joined Toastmasters, an organization that helps individuals develop speaking skills. The Toastmasters manual contains topics for ten brief speeches. As I began to work on speech number three, entitled "Something Emotional," I began to formulate my thoughts. Over and over the same words came to me, "Who will take care of this country? Where is the special interest group for America? Does anybody care? Who will love America?". This speech was so successful that I was asked to give it to other Toastmasters clubs as well as to a number of service organizations.
I always ended the speech quoting the now-famous section of the President Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address - "And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." I spoke of the Chinese proverb that says a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. I told the story of Candy Lightner who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after her daughter was killed by a car driven by a drunken cannery worker. Yet the audience reaction was weak, as if they were thinking, Thats interesting, but what can I do? I began thinking about simple actions that, when done by each of us on a daily basis over a lifetime, would keep our democracy strong. By early 1988, I had developed a one page list of 35 actions called What One Person Can Do that I handed out after the speech.
First the Title
I also had begun thinking of how to expose this message to more people. I laid out a rough business plan for a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting citizenship. While I considered names like Americans For America and On Behalf of America, I kept hearing the echo of Who Will Love America? which was to ultimately become this book's title. For a variety of reasons, the name of the non-profit became Good Citizen.
Patriotism vs. Citizenship
I have had some concerns that the "Love America" part of the title would construe a patriotic message rather than the intended message about what each of us, as one person, can do; and what is necessary to keep a democracy strong and thus a country free. The book is not about, flag waving or "love it or leave it". Neither are in my nature. The book is about who will care enough about the great things this country has to offer to do what is necessary to sustain them. For me, these reasons include that:
the country is gorgeous and has incredible natural resources,
we are a good people helping each other and others around the world in times of need,
we are diverse which makes life interesting, and
we are free - doing and becoming what we chose.
The book is about the responsibility part of freedom. The beliefs expressed in this book should not be viewed as conservative or liberal nor as Democratic or Republican they are simply American. No political statements have been intended.
Then the Logo
Early on, I wrote the words "Who Will Love America?" with a heart replacing the word Love. But it never was just any heart - it was the country's heart. And that is where the idea came from to put a caricature of the flag inside the heart. And for me, it was always a broken heart not a whole one.
It was a flag-heart that had cracks in it and where the stars were falling out of it and turning to tears. It was at that point I realized the Cracked Flag-Heart logo would replace the word "Love" in the title Who Will America?
Then the Content
The book evolved slowly during the 1990s in between some life changes the co-founding of The Information Technology Group, a Big 5 alternative management consulting group; the death of my mother; a divorce; and two girls in college. There was also some perfection-driven procrastination and uncertainty over the process of getting this book published.
As I began to think about the actions each of us needed to do to effective citizens, I realized that many of the actions had common characteristics and thus could be grouped into categories. For example, there are citizen actions that "remind us of our heritage" and those which "keep us involved in the democratic process". I ended up with six categories of citizen actions.
I also began to relate the actions to the Declaration of Independence where it says ".. 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. I realized that citizen actions are the sacrifices from our "pursuit of Happiness" necessary to ensure the country's "Life and Liberty" - or our existence and freedoms if you will.
And Finally a Web Book
In the later 1990s, I was struggling with how to finish the book. Do I send book proposals to publishers? Seek out a grant so I could take a year off while finishing the book? Continue to do what I can, when I can? There was no end in sight.
Then in early 1999, it happened suddenly. I just gave in to the message. I finally realized how important the message was to me and that these other issues like money, recognition, how and when to publish simply didn't matter. My small gift to the country would be to publish the book to the web, free of charge, to encourage citizens to take action. There really isn't an end to being a responsible citizen so I've structured the book to let others share their thoughts and stories related to the actions.
This book is about those actions; and about what you, as one person, can do to help repair the cracks and to live for the greater good of all.