THE BLOG

How The Bold Leadership Style Of 1787 Can Help America In 2017

Freedom lies in being bold.
-- Robert Frost

By 1781, it was clear to the Founders that the Articles of Confederation -- the new nation's first written document establishing the functions of a national government -- were failing the new states.

In an act as necessary as it was inspired, the Founders were determined to harness the potential of the fledgling nation and showed a bold resolve that Americans desperately need from our contemporary leaders.

George Washington felt the Articles were destroying national cohesion, the new, distinctly American mentality that had developed during the war with Britain. The Articles failed to promote unity across state lines, and these newly independent states operated more as small nations instead of one unified country.

Both Washington and James Madison felt they needed to correct the "errors" of the Articles -- they needed to be bold. But lack of unanimous consent of the state legislatures made changing the Articles virtually impossible. For four years to follow, attempts to improve upon and change the Articles failed.

Madison suggested a meeting to discuss interstate conflicts in Annapolis in late 1786 -- the precursor to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. In 1787, it was an audacious idea to presume that a group of citizens from different states could create something superior to the Articles. But the Founders were convinced the nation could be better -- stronger -- together.

And so, beginning in May 1787, the Constitutional Convention was underway. After months of debate, sustainable change was enacted in the form of the U.S. Constitution, the governing document that has guided America for the last 229 years.

It was an ambitious move for the Founding Fathers to push back against the Articles -- lack of a national currency, no federal court system, no president, and a legislature unable to raise funds were major problems rooted in the Articles, and the Founders demonstrated commitment to cultivate the potential of this new nation in their commitment to find a solution. These problems were eventually addressed and remedied, but not without conviction, resolve, and bold problem solving in the form of the Constitutional Convention.

Their tenacity should serve as a model for today's leaders to emulate at an event later this year in Washington, D.C. -- 1787: Constructing the Peace after the War.

Being bold in today's political climate takes on a new meaning - being bold today is collaborating with members of the opposing party when it is taboo. Being bold is refusing to succumb to the noise of either party and instead look toward the bigger picture: the future of the nation. Being bold is recognizing that the current state of government could be improved.

Today, bipartisanship is bold.

And today, when division among our leaders and a refusal to compromise is the new normal, it is particularly important to recall the commitment of the Founding Fathers.

While the Founders discussed and debated titanic issues, Congress has lately been incapable of reckoning with even the most basic functions of government like keeping citizens safe and passing timely budgets.

Zika made its official U.S. landfall in Florida this summer, just after Congress left for a seven-week recess -- the longest since the 1960s -- without having approved any new funding dedicated to the international health crisis, neither in the form of research nor prevention. Emergency funds were initially requested in February. The bill has failed three times, and Republicans and Democrats have instead chosen to blame one another -- a large departure from the dedication and commitment of our Founders.

With only a few weeks until the next October recess, Congress must pass 12 spending bills, or just kick the budget can down the road, the clock is ticking, and given the track record, sufficient funding for federal programs is at risk.

Our leaders have lost the dedication that was the foundation of this country, to put first what is best for our country.

This December in Washington, D.C., many of our nation's leaders again will dare to be bold. Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress and from across the country will recall the same spirit of our Founders -- tenacious, persistent, resolute. The nationally televised meeting will be a big step to broker the peace after the war of this presidential campaign, fostering collaboration and dedication to the same potential that united our Founding Fathers for months in Philadelphia in 1787 -- the potential of our democracy.

The Founders sustained several years of failed attempts to re-envision and recreate a unifying form of government - one better than the Articles. These leaders committed to the process without any assurance that their efforts would yield results. They only had the vision, the belief in the possibilities that awaited this young nation.

It is that same belief in the possibilities that should unite us all now, more than ever. And it is that same belief in what is possible that will bring together our political, business, local government and thought leaders in December.

When the election is over, so is the time for excuses from Washington.