Not long ago, I was asked to speak to the Radiant Panel Association at their annual Showcase Awards Program. The event was held in Washington, D.C., our nation's capitol.
I'm embarrassed to admit that the first time I visited Washington I was a grownup. I was deeply moved by my exploration of the city. I cried in the Library of Congress; I was awed by the Lincoln Memorial. I was struck speechless - can you believe that? - for most of my visit. (If you haven't yet, take your kids to D.C. and spend some time walking around, visiting our national temples and basking in the power of the place.)
Washington, D.C., inspires me. It inspired me to take a decidedly patriotic turn with my speech to the Radiant Panel Association. Here is a copy of that speech. You might not have heard it that night and I want to make sure you get this message. You see, your time has come to save the planet. I'm asking for your help. Read on ...
It has been said that democracy is the worst governing system on the planet - except for all the others. It excites and delights me to be here with you in the capitol city of the United States of America. This city is the hub of our democratic government. I'm honored to be here with you.
- Continue to create works of beauty and functionality. You create climate. You keep babies and folks of all ages cozy and comfortable. And, as you will see in the Showcase Award projects this evening, the functionality of your systems are often eclipsed by the joy of their artistic, physical, mechanical expression. You create wonderful, amazing works of weather and art.
How can you serve?
- Offer sane and honorable places to work. Create wealth and fuel the economy. Make your business establishments a testimony to your integrity and highest purpose. Indeed, if this world is to work at all, if we are to ever realize planetary peace, it must begin in our homes and our businesses.
How can you serve?
- Discover and offer alternative and super-efficient energy solutions in your systems. Explore and expand solar power. Be on the cutting edge with low-tech and low-impact energy sources: wood, wind and water. You are the ones to figure out our energy challenges. You are the capable ones. This is how you can serve. Work as individuals and within associations to leave your mark - a “plus” - on this time as your defining moment.
As one who is in awe of the skills and magic you possess, I humbly ask for your help.
My friend Dan Holohan got me hooked on old books, written by dead men. This book, “The American Way,” by Gertrude and John Van Duyn Southworth, is a collection of speeches and poems with which patriotic Americans have fired the hearts of their listeners and kindled the spirit which has enabled this country to survive her great crises and to gain new strength with each survival.
I'd like to share an excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address. After eloquently recapping what he deemed the essential principles of the U.S. government, culled from the Constitution, President Jefferson concluded his address thusly …
“These principles form the bright constellation, which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages, and the blood of our heroes, have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith, the test of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.”
Two hundred and twenty-nine years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation. Having endured religious and political persecution, having borne the burden of crippling taxation and commercial repression, the founding fathers transformed treasonous talk into righteous revolution. The United States of America was born, founded in freedom and grounded by the Constitution.
U.S. revolutionary history was a time of fierce trials, though that is true of all times, of our times, too. The U.S. founders gathered around tables, shared drinks and supped, I suppose. Together, they knew they could create a better, finer form of government. Imagine the discussion, the arguments and the passionate presentations. They were working toward some compromise without compromising their integrity or violating their values, moving in the direction of that new government.
As Benjamin Franklin said, encouraging the original signers of the Constitution to quit quipping and whip out their quills, “Gentlemen, we must hang together, or we will most certainly hang separately.” He meant that in the most literal sense.
The United States of America was created by an association of like-minded, free-thinking individuals. That spirit, their spirit, is reflected in every viable association. That spirit, their spirits, resonate here.
One hundred years after the birth of this democracy, this nation would be tested in the ultimate oxymoron, the United States Civil War. This hypocrisy of slavery was illuminated by the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. This nation was then reborn. President Lincoln, with malice toward none, with charity for all, worked to weld the North and the South into a United States again.
The next 100 years of U.S. history are punctuated by war and peace, power and poverty, pollution and progress. And always hope. This is a nation of birth and rebirth, of invention and innovation.
At the World's Fair [the Columbian Exposition]in Chicago in 1893, Thomas Edison lit the “White City” with electric lights. Soon after, fossil fuel was discovered, oozing from the Appalachian hills, replacing whale oil and usurping coal as the fuel source of choice. It wasn't that long ago that we entered into our petro-chemical dependency, entered into a whole new era of freedom and challenge.
Some maintain that there is enough fossil fuel to feed our voracious petro-appetites for another 100 years. Perhaps there is. However, is it likely that free, cheap and easy access to that supply will be a self-evident right? Or is it an evaporating extravagance?
Therein lies one of the challenges of this time, of our time. As individuals, as Radiant Panel Association members, we are right to ask, “How can I serve? What can I do? How can I help?”
This is our point in history, our opportunity to define this moment.
When we leave this life, we will leave our binary mark. A “plus” sign or a “minus” sign. A 1 or a 0. We will have helped, or we will have hindered.
In humble and grand ways, the minds in this room and your bodies of work may buy us some time. Or, open a whole new era of freedom, opportunity and expansion.
What will the next 100 years bring? How can you serve? Here's how:
How can you serve?