To Change a Nation, Start with Yourself
Edited transcript of a live audience presentation delivered by Dr. Shanon Brooks
in Rochester, New York – October 17, 2010
The Paradigm Shift
To begin, I want to introduce you to 2 basic concepts that impact all human behavior.
Number one, what is a paradigm? Yes, that’s right….it is the way we look at things, the way we process things, an established system; a pattern. In this context, it is a way in which we see the world. We all have our own little rose-colored glasses through which we view life. Sometimes married couples have very different paradigms that makeup the relationship. In families, you’ll have different paradigms. In fact, we probably have as many different paradigms here tonight as we have people sitting in the audience.
No transformation, no revolution, not even serious modification can occur without a paradigm shift. If there is no new view—there will be no improvement, no advancement, no expansion, no growth. Every great breakthrough in science, mathematics, philosophy, and technology—every great human endeavor has been the result of a paradigm shift complete with courageous leaders to lead the way.
For example, on October 13, 1947 the scientific world was certain that any attempt to break the sound speed barrier would result in horrific consequences; a person’s hair would fall out, they would loose their voice, they would revert in age and ultimately die. However, on October 14, 1947, test pilot Chuck Yeager entered the cockpit of the experimental Bell X-1 and he takes off. He exceeded 400 miles an hour, 500 miles an hour, 600 miles an hour, 610, 630, and the plane was shaking like crazy. You’ve got to know in his mind, somewhere he heard a little voice saying, “and you’ll most likely die.” But he said in his heart, “NO, no that can’t be true. They can’t be right.” So he goes faster and faster. 640, 690, 710 and what happened? BOOM! A Sonic Boom, right? And he kept going. Faster and faster 750, 760, 770 and he said the most curious thing happened. The faster he went the easier it got. In fact he said in his own words, “it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom.” The truth of the matter was, the scientists were wrong. It shocked them. They were wrong. They had a paradigm that was wrong.
Sometimes it take courageous leaders who know in their gut what the truth is, to lead out for everyone else to see, and then once they have proven it, then others will follow and eventually lead themselves. All it really took was a paradigm shift to see the world a new way. Remember, what we are after is the paradigm shift. The only thing constant in the universe is change.
But most people get stuck in a paradigm. Which brings us to Concept number 2. One of the strongest human traits that we all share is that we do not like change. It was Jefferson who recorded forever this human nature trait in his famous Declaration of Independence:
All experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
That means it doesn’t matter how much pain we are feeling, we’ll take the pain rather than change the thing that’s causing the pain. It is one of the strange truths about humanity.
Here is the dilemma. When I take the concept of paradigm (“my version of truth,” if it is not grounded in principle), and I connect it to the idea that I don’t like to change, I have just created a recipe for disaster regarding my personal freedom and social liberty.
Today we have a prevailing national paradigm and pretty much most of the population shares in this paradigm. I mean I’m glad you are here tonight. This is awesome. I have been in front of about three thousand people this year with this lecture and it’s great. But we are a small minority of the people in this country who are looking this direction. Most Americans still believe this prevailing national paradigm—that the only sound solutions to solve our national crises are going to come out of state and national government.
The Back-up Plan
Now my guess is, you don’t buy that, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here.
You probably aren’t real sure what exactly all the solutions are but I’m pretty sure you don’t believe they will be coming out of Washington, D.C. or out of the state house in Albany. We are only a few days from some very important elections, Yes? And I hope that everybody here whose voting age and registered goes and takes care of that, I hope you do. But then what? Generally, what happens is that we vote and then we go home. We go back to our homes trusting that those we just put into office will honor our confidence in them. How many times have Americans done this? We put somebody into office, we put our knight in shining armor in there only to find out that in a few months the new leader is incompetent or that they have fallen prey to “beltway fever.” Have you heard of that? Or they give-in to good-old-boy state house politics or worse. Maybe they bamboozled all of us and they were just corrupt and bad people to begin with.
If that happens, what’s your “plan B?” What’s your back-up plan? How many times have we done this? Do you know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Providentially, the American Founding Fathers developed a back up plan for us. It’s solid. They understood human frailty. They understood these kinds of things. They understood people do what they do. So they created a back-up plan and we have been the recipients of their genius for a long time. The back-up plan that they put together will still work for us but it requires a few people in each state to know this stuff solid. That needs to be our default. Do you understand what a default is? Our default is our automatic mode. If we get stressed or become afraid we “default” to a position that we are comfortable with but that is probably not in our best interest. Our national default has gotten us into quite a mess. We need the Founders Back-up Plan to be the default for enough people in every state so they can provide leadership to help shift our paradigm and lead us into a brighter future.
So tonight I want to talk about the American Founding Fathers Back-Up Plan, their plan B in the form of four solutions. These four solutions will solve the present national crisis. We call these the Four American Ideals. I was taught these by Cleon Skousen and Oliver DeMille and now I going to teach them to you.
These four solutions will make us better Americans. They will give us better marriages and stronger families and better communities. These four solutions are simple, but not easy. They’re common but not often discussed. Very effective but seldom employed. The solutions that I offer tonight will reduce your taxes. They will keep honorable and wise men and women in office. They will increase personal prosperity and decrease crime. But for you to really understand what I hope to convey to you tonight, I need you to leave your paradigms outside the building.
Some of you feel our national or state situation is hopeless. Some of you have ideas of what will solve our national crisis, some of you are pretty sure what won’t work in your mind, and as I’m trying to explain this, if what I’m saying doesn’t quite line up with what you’re thinking already, and you will have that conflict going on in your head the rest of the time I’m talking.
So I’m asking you to give this a shot and leave those paradigms outside and just listen with an open mind. I believe if you do that some of you will walk out of here after the next two hours with a course correction set up for your life. I know that when Drs. Skousen and DeMille exposed me to these concepts twenty years ago it changed my life.
Ok then let’s begin. In 1764 Thomas Jefferson was a twenty year-old college student. He was in love and wanted to ask the object of his adoration for her hand in marriage, but he was very shy. When he finally worked up the courage to ask the girl, she said no. Not only no, she said flat NO. It crushed him. He was writing about it twenty years later in his journal. That was in 1764.
In that same year 1764, George Washington was a man on a mission. He was trying to get out of debt and recorded his plan in his journal. You know, a new year’s resolution, “this year will be the year I get out of debt.” Anybody here tried that? Sounds like he had the same results most of us did. He didn’t make it that year. In fact it was a couple decades before he even got close to that.
In that same year 1764, James Madison was a sick schoolboy. He had been sick most of his life to that point. He was pretty much homeschooled by his grandmother because he was in bed all of the time. By the time he hit age twelve or thirteen he was old enough and healthy enough to go off to boarding school which was very common for the time. The letters between the schoolmaster and his parents discuss how smart he was, just an intelligent kid. But they said he was shy and awkward and that he would probably never amount to anything.
In that same year 1764, John Adams had just finished his degree at Harvard. He was working as a schoolteacher, only months away from getting his license to practice law. He married Abigail in October of that year. And he wrote in his journal, ( I am paraphrasing) “Wow, I’ve got the farm, I’ve got the job, I’ve got the girl. Yeah, it’s going to be great! I’m never going to have to leave Braintree, Massachusetts again!” As you may well know, that was not how things turned out.
In 1764 none of these men had done anything to earn the title of American Founding Father. However, a little more than a decade later, they with others, declared independence from the strongest military power on the planet. A decade after that, they wrote a constitution that provided the deepest, long period of freedom for a people, for a civilization in the history of mankind. But in 1764 they were just regular people. They suffered illness. They had relationship problems. They experienced disillusionment. They were in debt. They had all same kinds of issues we deal with. In fact, I would say they were pretty ordinary. Kind of like us.
So how do you take people like us and in a decade or two turn them into American Founding Fathers (and Mothers, because you have to include the Martha’s, Abigail, and Dolly)? How do you transform people like us into leaders who change the world?
How do you do that?
A serious study of that time reveals two causes; a very special educational system and a culture of virtue. Everything I have studied regarding the American character between the years 1650 to 1950, always comes back to the same thing– if you want citizens of high character, if you want to perpetuate liberty—you must teach it!
The politics don’t matter, hardly anything else matters, it’s the education, that’s what really matters. Politics only play a major part if the education is absent. The American system of education we have today has changed from what was originally intended because our culture changed. Remember when Franklin left the convention? He walked out of the convention hall and a lady asked, “Dr. Franklin what kind of government did you give us?” What did he say? “A Republic madam, if you can keep it.” He was talking about the culture.
The founders talked about it. Dr. Skousen’s great book The 5,000 Year Leap chronicles a number of different historical aspects of the period and quotes of Founders regarding the culture, it’s the culture, okay. It’s huge.
The founders identified that their culture had certain characteristics. Not all of the citizens adhered to this culture mind you, but the majority of society, the general populace did.
There were three very identifiable societal qualities then that we have not retained; 1) Education, leadership education was held in high esteem. The citizens in general were well educated, 2) the society was self-regulating. They didn’t go to attorneys every time they turned around. For the most part, they handle problems for themselves morally, ethically and legally, and 3) they preferred to take care of themselves rather than have the government take care of them.
Today, one in six American citizens are on some sort of welfare.(1) The United States is the most litigious society in the world, with more attorneys per capita than any other nation worldwide. And we are about to make a case for serious problems in education.
In fact, the American system of government that the Founders gave us was based on individual liberty and responsibility and was not designed to support even 10% of the social programs that we have today. Compared to what the Founders gave us, we live in a welfare state.
Education became a catch-all-phrase during the last half of the 20th century. Education can and has been used for everything. All kinds of things. It can support tyranny as well as truth. It can support war as well as peace. It can support life as well as death. Whether education is good or evil depends on where and how it’s taught. It is not dependent on teacher’s salaries, or campus buildings. It is not dependent on how swanky the football uniforms are. What determines whether an education leads to good or evil is dependent on how it impacts the moral foundation of society. What determines whether it’s good or evil is the manner in which the teachers live their personal lives and how they interact with the students on campus. What determines whether it’s good or evil is how well it influences the students to seek for truth. This is what gave the original American educational system its substance and direction. In the course of history, education has served every purpose and doctrine conceived by the mind of a man. If it is to serve the cause of human freedom, it must be explicitly designed for that purpose. (2)
(1) Idea from G.S Counts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Counts
Dr. Shanon Brooks is co-founder and President of Monticello College. He has over twenty-one years experience in teaching and administration of entrepreneurial higher education organizations including a term as President of George Wythe University.
He is a veteran of military service in the United States Naval Submarine Fleet and he studied for several years under the tutelage of the late Dr. W. Cleon Skousen, teaching the Making of America Courses all across America and Canada.
He is co-author of A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens and holds a B.A. in Business Administration, an M.A. in Education, and a Ph.D. in Constitutional Law. He lives in Monticello, Utah with his wife, Julia and their children.