Monday, July 11, 2011

What happened to ideas?

We are a country founded an idea. A simple idea that human beings have an inalienable right to freedom and to pursue that which makes them happy.

This was a bold idea at the time. And we followed it up with countless more bold ideas over the subsequent 230 years or so.

But it seems we may be tapped out.

On Friday, we witnessed the launch of the final space shuttle mission. It's amazing how far we've come (or, more accurately, fallen) since the dawn of our space program back in the 50s. Once upon a time, we dreamed big, setting our sights on the moon at a time when we were just getting used to the idea of transcontinental flight.

Doesn't anybody dream anymore?

Where are the big plans? The bold ideas? The crazy, brazen statements like Kennedy's 'we'll put a man on the moon by the end of the decade' speech back in 1961? Or MLK's "I have a dream" speech in 1963?

It seems we are so afraid of failure these days that we do not even want to take a chance on success. The Great Recession has sucked the life out of all of us, including our greatest thinkers.

And this is incredibly sad.

The only thing that stands to pull us out of this horrible place is courage. We need to dream bigger than our current reality. We need to see things that seem unthinkable. We need to imagine things that seem impossible.

People can throw around all of the economic theories they want, but if we don't have something that truly energizes our nation, we will slide further and further away from the simple idea that launched this country to greatness.

But how do we encourage this type of thinking? How do we get people, especially our best and brightest, out of their woe-is-us funk?

I'm not sure. But I feel the solution probably lies outside of Washington. As much as I champion the role of government in areas such as healthcare, job creation and environmental protection, there is only so much they can do to encourage bolder, bigger thinking. The feds can play a part, but ultimately we need the push to come from the private sector.

And this is where social media comes into play. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google have access to an incredible amount of brain power and imagination. Wouldn't it be amazing if they could harness it all in a way that propels us into the next great movement?

We've seen hints of this type of action. Google is actively involved in big projects like wind power and self-driving cars. Facebook has played a major role in some great ideas like the Pepsi Refresh Project. And Twitter has mobilized people across the globe to rise up against tyranny and abuse.

But we need to take things a step further here at home and actively engage the nation in a way we haven't seen in a generation. We need our next 'man on the moon' moment.

I'm ready to do my part. Are you?

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