Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Philadelphia Freedom

The last week has seen me thinking about my trip to Philadelphia, PA for the 2011 Eisenhower Fellowships’ Opening Seminar. 20 International and 10 U.S. Fellows will be converging there to meet and converse for the first time of what I hope is many. Philadelphia is also the where the EF headquarters is located.
If you know me or follow my blog you will find that I tend to think about weird stuff, stuff that doesn’t matter sometimes but occupies the far reaches of my brain. I have always asked “What if?” and “Why?” which led me to be less than proficient in math above algebra. The answer to those questions from my math teacher was “Because!” That doesn’t work for me, I need to know.
I am an optimistic and inquisitive person who likes to understand fully the workings of something. If I don’t receive what I believe is the proper answer I will try asking the question differently until I am satisfied (or the person calls the police.) I want to know and to wrap my hands around the subject. So be careful about piquing my interest, you might get more than you asked for.
Anyway, I have been giving plenty of thought about my EF adventure in April and trying to grasp the whole Eisenhower thing. The EF Mission Statement is: Eisenhower Fellowships engages emerging leaders from around the world to enhance their professional capabilities, broaden their contacts, deepen their perspectives, and unite them in a diverse, global community - a network where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.”
I have also done background checks on the people that will be presenting at the seminar and reading the bio’s for all of the 2011 Fellows. It is a very diverse and successful group of people. But why have headquarters in Philadelphia of all the places in the U.S.? Why not Washington, D.C., New York City, or Los Angeles? Why bring International and U.S. Fellows there?
I believe the answer is FREEDOM! Philadelphia is the world’s cradle for Democracy and Freedom. It is a city that birthed hope for not just the citizens of the U.S. and New World, but for all people in every country. Freedom that was conceived out of conflict, achieved through Revolution, and defended proudly for over 200 years with blood, sweat, and tears. FREEDOM!
Freedom consists of two words: 1) Free [adj.] Enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery: a land of free people;   2) Dom [suffix] – State, condition, or quality of being; the ‘place’ where people are free. Put those two words together and the definition of Freedom [noun] is: “The condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints." What a simple but powerful word FREEDOM is.
30 people who are strangers to each other are converging to the birthplace of Freedom where 55 men literally put their lives on the line for that dream. 55 men and a little hall that has given hope, opportunity, and success to billions of people worldwide. The birthplace of three simple documents that has withstood the test of time, but are constantly under attack: The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Thank God for my ability to express my First Amendment Right by writing this blog. How many places in the world will not let you do that? How many countries try to keep people from being free or speaking out? I also love to express my Second Amendment Right by hunting and target practicing any time I want. What forethought went into making the Freedom of Speech and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms the first two amendments, amendments that have ensured every U.S. citizen Freedom for over 200 years. Smart, smart men were the 55 signers. Sorry for rambling, back to the task at hand.
Combine Philadelphia and its history with the personality, vision, and example of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The strong personalities that he had to deal with during WWII like Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Generals Omar Bradley, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Charles De Gaulle and Bernard Montgomery.
As President he had to deal with people in both Republican and Democratic parties, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mao Tse-tung. Communism was spreading and Eastern Europe countries were falling like dominos, the Korean War, the space race, the division of Germany, and the Berlin Blockade.  He could have used nuclear weapons or gone to war more often, but he tried to find lasting solutions to the  problems of the day.
This is why Philadelphia is the home city for Eisenhower Fellows. A strong will and vision is why! Freedom is why! Just like the gathering of 55 men in 1776 to light the eternal flame of Freedom to solve problems, 30 Fellows will learn better leadership skills to uphold that tradition. 30 Fellows will come together as strangers but leave as friends with a mission to help formulate solutions to problems in the world of today and the future.
The Liberty Bell, which is the symbol of Freedom, is cracked and flawed; it isn’t perfect but it has withstood the test of time. Nothing is perfect, not the U.S. Constitution (it needed the Bill of Rights and the chance for amendments) nor Freedom. There are those that are free that wish to take freedom from others. How do we solve that problem?
How do we solve problems like delivering enough food by 2050 to feed 9.5 billion people? What solutions will be found to ease the effects of drought and famine? What opportunities lie ahead for achieving peace among people and countries? What will I be able to learn and contribute to any of these causes? Will I be strong enough or smart enough to help formulate if not solutions, at least conversation and direction that might lead to solutions? We shall see.
It is both scary and exciting to do something you don’t know or understand, to meet new people with different backgrounds and ideas. Just like the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence, I am certain they were scared, but they created a network to solve problems. And the 30 2011 Fellows, we will be doing the same thing by following the mission of the Fellowship, we will create “a network where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.” Hopefully like the 55 signers.

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