Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tribute to a Founding Father & Change Agent

I thought the Independence Day holiday would be a good time to give tribute to a great change agent in American History: Samuel Adams. US history buffs know Sam Adams. Many of you may have always wondered who the beer was named after. Either way, you will benefit from learning more about this great man who changed history.

Samuel Adams was born in Boston, and lived nearly his entire life in this great city. He struggled to thrive as a businessman and tax collector in the Massachusetts colony, but his experiences brought him face to face with the tyranny of the British crown. A man ahead of his times, he saw storm clouds forming on the horizon of American history, and founded the movement that ultimately resulted in the American revolution. A man who consistently placed liberty for his people ahead of his own freedom and comfort, Sam Adams bore all the marks of a true change agent. Some in his day may have even called him a change freak!

Adams knew well the power of symbolism and inspirational images in encouraging others to change. He adamantly opposed the stamp act of 1765, a tax that sought, for the first time, to tax the internal affairs of the American colonies. The resistance he led was seen as rebellious resistance by loyalists, and an English writer went so far as to mock Adams and his followers as "sons of liberty." Rather than take offense at this characterization, they wore the title proudly and Sons of Liberty organizations followed Boston's lead and sprung up throughout the colonies. They created a slogan that inspired the colonies to resist the stamp act and other non-importation laws: "No taxation without representation!" Led by Sam Adams, the Boston group selected a tree at the center of Boston and named it the Liberty Tree. At this locations crowds gathered and inspirational speeches were given to encourage resistance to the Stamp Act (and a mob or two also started their destruction of the Governor's palace from this location). When the Stamp Act was finally repealed in 1766, thousands gathered at the Liberty Tree to celebrate.

It was at this time of peace and relative quiet that Adams recognized the danger that still loomed for the colonies. Yet as a change agent it was a frustrating time for him, as he saw the movement lose momentum and members in the years that followed. He struggled to bolster patriotic spirits, and his efforts met with a general apathy from neighboring towns. Yet it was during this time that Adams, as a change freak that was not to be deterred, found some of his greatest inspiration. When fellow Sons of Liberty member James Warren returned from canvasing towns throughout Massachusetts, he told Adams "They are dead, and the dead can't be raised without a miracle." To this Samuel Adams responded "Nil desperandum. Never despair. That is a motto for you and me. All are not dead; and where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will rekindle it." It was just a few short years later that Adam's tireless efforts were rewarded. His circular letters to the other colonies proved to be the foundation of unity when British tyranny proved to be alive and well. He inspired a new nation to seek its Independence and helped change the world!

Change leaders, there will be times when you are frustrated and discouraged. Nil desperandum. Never despair. The change agents that ultimately change the course of history are often men and women who simply refuse to give up. Your tireless efforts today may change the future, even if you are struggling to see the results today.

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