Perspective: Like nation’s founders, what’s your approach to common goal?

When a major change is made in the structure of a school district, a business, an organization, or a government, it may require a great deal of discussion and compromise among the major participants. It can be both extremely frustrating and extremely beneficial.

Such was the case in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, when delegates met to draft a more workable plan of government for the United States and produced the United States Constitution.

On July 4 we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but we also celebrate America and all of her accomplishments.

The accomplishment that resulted from the 1787 meetings was definitely one of America’s greatest and is cause for celebration on the 4th of July. Those deliberations not only gave us the Constitution, but also an excellent illustration of how successful, intelligent and proud individuals can work together for the good of everyone.

There was a tremendous amount of intellect and wisdom there in Philadelphia during the hot summer months of 1787.

There was also a massive amount of ego, which, when combined with the record-setting heat, almost caused the convention to end in failure.

Benjamin Franklin, who was getting very old at the time, made a plea for prayers to help them get past their difficulties.

“I have lived,” he said, “a long time. And the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Franklin then suggested that each day begin with prayer — a tradition that continues to this day in the U.S. Congress.

So the Constitution became a reality in part because of the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and his realization that none of them were so great that they didn’t need the help of the Almighty.

But there were many other noteworthy individuals.

George Washington was wise, calm, steady and deeply respected even to the point of being revered. His presence provided a great deal of assurance to the delegates and credibility to the entire undertaking.

James Madison was extremely gifted and studious and came better prepared than any delegate. He had done his homework and arrived with a solid plan for government, much of which became a part of the Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton, also one with a brilliant mind, was there, but not everyone trusted him. He was too radical. He worked behind the scenes. He was a wheeler-dealer; a horse-trader, sometimes proposing a far-fetched idea, knowing that a counter-proposal would result in a compromise which would give him what he wanted all along. His genius was not to be underestimated. With Madison, he later authored most of the Federalist Papers.

Patrick Henry, the great American patriot known for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death!” was not there. He wanted no part in the discussions. He felt that drawing up a new plan of government was not in the best interests of the new country. He said simply he “smelled a rat,” and some historians believe the rat he smelled was Alexander Hamilton.

Thomas Jefferson likely had the greatest mind of his day and he loved his country. But he was not present because he was serving as a U.S. ambassador in France.

So, when major changes are discussed in our world today, which individual do you favor? To be more specific, in the Jefferson City School District, as discussions continue about the future and about school facilities and instructional delivery, which of the founding fathers would you most resemble?

Would you be like Franklin, claiming that we will fail if we give in to petty differences and refuse to acknowledge that our collective wisdom is limited?

Would you be like Washington, steady at the helm, inspiring others, and instilling confidence?

Would you be like Madison, cerebral, questioning, and constructively critical?

Would you be like Hamilton, tirelessly working behind the scenes, forging alliances, talking to others individually?

Would you be like Henry, on the outside-looking-in, uncomfortable with the entire undertaking?

Would you be like Jefferson, very interested but duty requires that you be elsewhere?

In the end none of those great men got everything they wanted, but their willingness to hear another view and their ability to compromise gave America a government that has served her well.

Will we follow their example today?

David Wilson, EdD, is one of the assistant principals at Jefferson City High School. You may e-mail him at david.wilson@jcschools.us.

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