“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In fact, the fundamental importance of this first and most basic American “Right” was even brought up by a participant during the course of the event.
The American People are engaged and many are restless. These changing, trying, technology-driven, “instant news” times have stimulated worry and generated plenty of conversation in a complex world. Some of it is informed but, sadly, far too much is reactionary and based upon “sound bites” that are taken out of context.
The ability to freely express ideas and share perspectives in a public forum takes on even greater importance in these turbulent times, however, because there is nothing like face-to-face communication to gain clarity of understanding. It’s wonderful to live in a country that not only allows for such open exchanges, but also actually embraces them at its very core.
I suspect that gatherings like the Congressman's forum mirror others taking place around our Country in the present and also reflect those of generations past in many ways. I also see an important difference, because today’s events generate more energy than just what was produced in the meeting room (I assure you there was plenty of that!) since many participants were actively recording the event in pictures and video to review and share with others. I must say that I admire our Congressman’s commitment to the process, along with his remarkable ability to nimbly navigate such a lively gathering and to converse intelligently on a wide range of important topics.
As I left the event, I reflected on what I learned there and how “freedom of speech” also applies to the world of business. Customers are more than willing to tell you how you are doing, but first you have to ask and then be willing to hear what they have to say. Failure to do so, however, doesn’t protect you from the power of the marketplace and the sharing of ideas around you through social media and other resources. It pays to participate in the process, since it will focus your thoughts and also provide a meaningful opportunity for you to shape the conversation.
Happy Birthday, America! I offer a heart-felt thanks to all who serve our Country and protect our most fundamental rights. Let Freedom Ring!