CAPE ELIZABETH — What a bold, optimistic experiment our nation and government is. So idealistic. So wise about the dynamics of power. So against autocratic rule. It was designed and created by men (who knows what wisdom women would have added) who had just rebelled against their former country and they needed to create a new nation.

Democracy is not a given. It’s a wildly radical experiment in governing. It is interesting to me, as a former organizational development executive, now coach, to think about the U.S. Constitution as a gigantic organizational development intervention, which simply means a structured and conscious approach to making a system, company or country achieve its goals and live its values.

The Declaration of Independence created the vision. After establishing a new nation, the arduous dialogue began to create the principles and laws for a new nation that would support a different kind of design for governing. This involved talking, conflict and compromise, along with much fury, and then doggedly coming back to the table to discuss again and again what kind of nation they wanted to create.

There were some established principles: political equality, meaning that people who were unequal in many ways had the same voting rights, that is, power to affect events; natural rights, which are inherent, not granted under law, like all people being created equal and having the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness; and “popular sovereignty,” meaning that the people, through a method of voting, gave authority and power to the state to act.

These are uncommon principles for governing a nation. Alexander Hamilton wondered “whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.” What we tend to forget is that accident and force always lurk and it takes an equal and opposite strength to lean toward the form of government we have in our Constitution: a government of the people.

Our idealistic, while practical, form of governing does take education and constant dialogue and is never comfortable or easy. There is always the abrasion of people with opposing ideas that appall one another. We have a design or structure in the Constitution that was built to manage power while assuming imperfect people would be in charge and, therefore, ameliorated the danger of too much power in one person or system.

The idea of a constitutional crisis is talked about often. We may very well be in one. We will see if the vision, principles and law of our land can adapt and stretch to include many more people than it had in mind at its start and people of so many more and varied backgrounds.

Can we expand the heart and mind and action embedded in our Constitution to have a multiracial, supersized democracy? Can we adapt ourselves and our law? Can we hold to the three founding principles of our country when we get scared of too many differences and what we might lose? Can we proactively create seemingly impossible reconciliation of differences to align with our principles? Or do we wait for the crisis that can bring an end to such a grand, largely conceived experiment of democracy?

We must refresh the vision of our nation and its radical way to govern. We must teach the profound elements of our Constitution that balance power among leaders and give people input and rights. We must realize what a powerful and country-changing approach we have in how we govern and model it for the rest of the world.

May we be as stalwart and smart and creative as the originators of this radical idea of government of and for the people – all the people. May this be a time of turmoil that leads to the re-creating and recommitment to our democratic experiment as we live through the necessary anguish of change.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.