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A WORKBOOK AND ONLINE COMMUNITY
for Co-CREATING OUR SUSTAINABILITY ETHIC

Section II - Guiding Principles
Chapter 1 - Constitutional Governance

 

Thus conceived, the dialogic mind is not only a guardian of liberty but metaphorically similar to a democratic state. It rejects the tyranny of a single system or dogma; it welcomes new ideas and guarantees them equality as it considers them; it provides an open forum for competing theories and systems; it refuses to censor "dangerous" ideas; it cherishes and protects its capacity to learn and grow; it guards as something precious its own access to joy and laughter.

On Dialogue', Robert Grudin, p.5

 

What is the importance of guiding principles for the systems most significant to us?

In the fall of 1997, I enrolled in the Public Administration and Policy school at Portland State University because it was clear to me that to affect the changes I wanted to see in public education and sustainability, I needed to be able to affect policy at all levels - local, regional, state, and federal. The class that had the most impact for me was 'U.S. Constitutional Governance.' I previously had little understanding of the brilliance and foresightedness of our Founding Fathers. I felt profoundly blessed to be living in this country, querulous at how we were so lucky, and saddened that our public school systems don't do a good deal more to assure that every student grows up with an understanding of and desire to participate in the democratic process.

It is ironic that the concept of a ‘chaord' seems so foreign, and its implementation a pipe-dream, when the system so many Americans and others around the world cherish is a ‘chaord' - constitutional governance. Let me explain by saying a little more about the four critical aspects of the chaord -- simple structure, clear purpose, principles, and blending of apparent opposites.

OO_II-1_2009-02-09

The structure of the U.S. Constitution is elegant in its simplicity, with its sharing and balance of power between the people and those that govern; between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government; with freedoms to participate educationally, socially, politically, and economically, through a constitution that serves as a guide for individual and communal rights and responsibilities. The Constitution and the documents that surround it - the Preamble, the Bill of Rights, and our Declaration of Independence - are all developed around clear purpose, guiding principles, and the capacity for blending apparent opposites.

The purpose is clearly stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America".
The guiding principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence reflect the deepest ethic -

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'

This single sentence reflects a philosophy of a ‘greater power' and a theology, without dogma, of the dignity of all individuals. It is from this ethic that we now have such powerful principles as 'the separation of church and state,' ‘we the people,' ‘all men (persons) are created equal,' ‘the Bill of Rights,' ‘decisions by majority,' ‘protection of the minority from the tyranny of the majority,' and protection of all citizens from a government that attempts to misuse its power.'

Thomas Jefferson and some of his colleagues seemed to have a deep, intuitive understanding of the infinite game when they developed the guiding principle that ‘all men are created equal,' believing that their current practice of slavery would one day be abolished. Their belief in that guiding principle has in many significant respects been affirmed, most visibly since Barak Obama won the Democratic Party's nomination, and then the election, for President of the United States. On the day following Obama's nomination, Ms. Condolezza Rice, an African American Secretary of State said: "The United States of America is an extraordinary country. It is a country that has overcome many, many, now years, decades, actually a couple of centuries of trying to make good on its principles, and I think what we are seeing is an extraordinary expression of the fact that 'We the people' is beginning to mean all of us."

It may be worthwhile to reflect on the quote at the top of this chapter. It seems to me that the Founding Fathers had a collective dialogic mind, and from it sprung forth the wisdom, compassion, and capacity for dealing with the failings of human nature that come with unrestrained power.

 


Reflection

Please take a moment to reflect on an institution that is integral to providing meaning in your life.

What are the institution's guiding principles?
What difference does it make for you to be aware of these principles?
How might you engage others in dialogue around these principles?

 

 

Rev. 2009-02-09 MOM


 

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Prev: Section I : Chapter 4 - Organizing for the Game of Life
Next: Section II : Chapter 2 - The Power of Ethics

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