The Dream Revitalized & Expanded

April, 2005
In this issue:
1. Newsbriefs: Feedback Wanted
More on Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership Degree Program
2. April Editorial: The Dream Revitalized & Expanded
3. Next Month’s Editorial
4. Quote of the Month: Goethe

Feedback Wanted

Every few days I post “Newsbriefs” to my website, then select two to four of them to include in this newsletter. I am wondering if subscribers see this of any value. If they are of little value to subscribers, I may as well drop them so that Better Future News is largely my editorials and whatever subscriber feedback the editorials generate. What is your opinion? Would you like to see “Newsbriefs” continue?

More on Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership Degree Program

I’ll be teaching an all-day course on conscious leadership for the Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) class offered by The Center for Leadership Studies at the Sanderling Resort, Spa and Conference Center on Virginia on June 7th; for more information about the MAOL program see the Center’s website.


Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense, the “bible” of modern democracy, identified himself largely with the United States but nonetheless saw himself as a global citizen. He wrote, “My country is the world. My countrymen are mankind.” He continued, “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.” Paine never meant this egocentrically but he saw the U.S. Declaration of Independence as ultimately applicable to all humanity, addressing issues of importance to people everywhere.

Visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller also saw the whole world as his home and offered a wonderful metaphorical phrase that has stuck with me since the 1980s. In his 1981 book Critical Path he writes, “In all reality I never leave home.” My backyard has just grown progressively bigger and more globular until now the whole world is my spherical backyard. ‘Where do you live?’ and ‘What are you?’ are progressively less sensible questions. At present I am a passenger on Spaceship Earth…”

Human beings have done very well developing their abilities to distribute information, travel easily, entertain one another, produce and merchandize things and, generally, manage our material reality. As significant as our material achievements are, we have not kept pace with our inner development.

As TV genius Norman Lear quipped in Leadership in a New Era, “We just may be the most well-informed, yet least self-aware, people in history.” We have become fantastic “do-ers” but remain infantile “be-ers.” We seem to accept our greatness in the former arena while largely ignoring the latter – that which provides deep and lasting satisfaction.

Somewhere the vision of the founders of these United States got skewed so that only the material aspects have been focused upon, not the mystical or spiritual – what Benjamin Franklin called “superintending Providence.” The original American Dream as envisioned by our founders included the freedom to pursue both. Washington saw liberty as obedience to what is highest within ourselves and within the community, not simply having the freedom to pursue selfish interests. But somewhere along the line “the pursuit of happiness” started walking on one leg – the leg of materialism – and the spiritual part of the dream, what was referred to as “inner wealth,” was amputated and we started deferring to structures of religious doctrine, dogma and interpretations by others.

The meaning of the American Dream shifted over the generations since 1776. When I was growing up in the 1950s it seemed to have become all about possessions and material abundance. Perhaps it was a reaction to the Great Depression in which people of my parents generation suffered so much, but “a chicken in every pot” gave way to “two cars in every garage.” It seems we have been measuring our happiness by our possessions for several generations now.

Contemporary philosopher Jacob Needleman writes, “America is a nation formed by philosophical ideals that have been thought through by human beings – it is the only nation in the world that is so constituted.” This country was born from the convergence of these ideals amidst a world that was steeped in older ways. Now is the time for a similar birth – an intentional birth based on a more mature humanity – but for our entire world. Now is the time for humanity to take a stand for its greatness – owning a destiny that has been unfulfilled on the social level but continuing to be sought by people in their private reflections and deeper yearnings.

The American Dream was meant to be a fresh start in a new land. It was unleashed idealism free to roam in an entirely new land. There isn’t any “new land” left in the world that is suitable for human existence so we need to bring the dream to the existing land. Besides, our world is so small these days; a resurrected American Dream for the exclusive benefit of people in the United States is not a viable option any longer.

For better or for worse, the world has become Spaceship Earth and all humans are passengers. But one big difference between a spaceship and an airplane, on Spaceship Earth we are also crew members. You can’t sit back in coach or business class on Spaceship Earth and expect to be waited on and remain passive. We each have personal responsibility for how our spaceship does and whether or not we all survive.

Becoming wealthy and powerful as individuals or as nations no longer provides assurance of security or safety. We are all in this together. It is time for a new renaissance in which we bring new commitments, values and approaches to our world much like the founders tried to do nearly 250 years ago for our country. What our founders referred to as “one nation, indivisible” can now be paraphrased as “one world, indivisible” in keeping consistent with Fuller’s Spaceship Earth metaphor.

It is time to resurrect the spiritual context for happiness, not to continue trying to walk on the one leg of materialism. It is time to explicitly engage that ineffable quality our founders attempted to instill in our country’s essential DNA – what some of them called “Providence” and others called “Reason.”

Let us come together as people, not as separate nations or tribes or nationalities. Let us come together as human beings sharing this experience here on Earth and co-create the “new dawn for the human spirit.” We have so much to learn from one another. The United States can learn much from Europe and Asia, and vice versa. The North can learn so much from the southern hemisphere peoples, and vice versa. South Africa has so much to teach us all about reconciling generations of deeply-instilled hatred and patterns of violence and vengeance. There’s so much more we can all be together, as global citizens, so much more than all of us proceeding separately.


* This article has been adapted from a book-in-progress being written by John Renesch with the working title of The New Human: Beyond the Naked Ape.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe
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About John Renesch

John Renesch is a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and international keynote speaker. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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