Take your seat

“If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.” – Charles F. Kettering

CF Kettering

*   *   *

It’s not that Kettering didn’t recognize the value of working together – his initial fame, after all, came through the Barn House Gang and its long list of breakthroughs. Much of his career, after all, involved getting teams of scientists and engineers to look beyond commonly accepted “answers” and assumptions. For him, progress means rejecting the status quo, challenging what’s being taught, and taking risks. There’s nothing conservative here, either. In his objection to committees I sense an opposition to what in political science has been called the Tyranny of the Majority, or even the out-and-out inertia of human society until it’s forced to move on.

For another perspective, I look at our Quaker decision-making, in which a vote is never taken, requires unity of the participants. It goes way beyond majority rule, for it also recognizes that the one individual who is at odds with the rest of us may be closer to sensing the course we’re really meant to take. This may even lead to a much better third way, which neither side had been aware of until we opened ourselves to the possibilities.

Committees? You’re talking to a Lone Ranger who’s learned he doesn’t know everything. Learned the hard way and wised up.


Well-earned laurels

“How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.” – Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

*   *   *

George Washington is remembered as the Father of Our Country, but Abigail Adams deserves the honor as its Mother. Bring forth her laurels!

An alternative cost-of-living index

“Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.” – Henry David Thoreau


*   *   *

Let me point out that the hermit of Walden Pond is not denying money’s usefulness in providing for the body – food, clothing, shelter, even when his requirements were intentionally minimized. (And detailed, as many readers know.) Rather, he’s invoking the Big Picture – what we really want out of life – and challenging the very foundations of consumerism.

Take that, Wall Street!

Sweet spot

“I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.” – Susan B. Anthony


*   *   *

Anthony could have pointed to Abigail Adams’ financial resourcefulness during her husband’s long absences in the service of his country. You could even say Abigail’s own independence and security led to the new nation’s.

Exercising character

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” – Horace Mann

Horace Mann

*   *   *

Mann’s service in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives is overshadowed by his work as an educational reformer who greatly influenced the American public schools system. But I knew of him more as the namesake of the demanding elementary school many of my friends attended and as the one-time president of nearby Antioch College.

Now I’m surprised to learn he was a brother-in-law to novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and assumed John Quincy Adams’ seat in Congress.

Education, as he saw it, was about much more than imparting facts or creeds. Intelligent public service would be crucial to a successful democratic nation.