The Sentence That Knocked Down the Berlin Wall (But Almost Didn’t)

This post is a reprint of the November 5 ,2014 article from the Intercollegiate Review.

 

Twenty-five years ago last week, the Berlin Wall fell. 

Twenty-five years ago last week, the Berlin Wall fell.

In retrospect, what event fails to suggest a certain inevitability about itself, conveying the sense that because it happened it had to have happened?

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Berlin Wall finally fell.

Of course it did.

How could it have remained in place a day longer? For that matter, how could the Soviet Union itself have failed to fall?

How could the Cold War have ended any other way than in a victory for the West?

History preserves only the events that took place, permitting the alternatives—the contingencies and near misses—to fade, disappearing completely in the end.

Yet if you’d like proof that history isn’t predetermined—that history contains within itself a multitude of alternative realities, of near misses and might-have-beens—consider the address that President Ronald Reagan delivered at the Brandenburg Gate twenty-nine months before the Berlin Wall came down.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Those words were very nearly dropped from the president’s text.

How do I know? I wrote the address.

The Angry Hausfrau

Über_den_Dächern_von_BerlinIn April 1987 the celebrations for the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin were under way.

Queen Elizabeth had already visited the city. Mikhail Gorbachev was due in a matter of days.

Although President Reagan hadn’t been planning to visit Berlin himself, he was going to be in Europe in early June, first visiting Rome, then spending several days in Venice for an economic summit.

At the request of the West German government his schedule was adjusted to permit him to stop in Berlin for a few hours on his way back to the United States from Italy.

I was then serving as a speechwriter to the president and was assigned to write the Berlin address. I was told only that the president would be speaking at the Berlin Wall, that he was likely to draw an audience of about ten thousand, and that, given the setting, he probably ought to talk about foreign policy.

In late April I spent a day and a half in Berlin with the White House advance team, the logistical experts, Secret Service agents, and press officials who went to the site of every presidential visit to make arrangements. All I had to do in Berlin was find material. When I met the ranking American diplomat in Berlin, I assumed he would give me some.

A stocky man with thick glasses, the diplomat projected an anxious, distracted air throughout our conversation, as if the very prospect of a visit from Ronald Reagan made him nervous. The diplomat gave me quite specific instructions. Almost all of it was in the negative. He was full of ideas about what the president shouldn’t say.

The most left-leaning of all West Germans, the diplomat informed me, West Berliners were intellectually and politically sophisticated. The president would therefore have to watch himself. No chest thumping. No Soviet bashing. And no inflammatory statements about the Berlin Wall. West Berliners, the diplomat explained, had long ago gotten used to the structure that encircled them.

After I left the diplomat, several members of the advance team and I were given a flight over the city in a U.S. Air Force helicopter. Although all that remains of the wall these days are paving stones that show where it stood, in 1987 the structure dominated Berlin. From the air, the wall seemed less to cut one city in two than to separate two different modes of existence.

On one side lay movement, color, modern architecture, crowded sidewalks, traffic. On the other lay a kind of void. Buildings still exhibited pockmarks from shelling during the war. Cars appeared few and decrepit, pedestrians badly dressed.

The wall itself, which from West Berlin had seemed a simple concrete structure, was revealed from the air as an intricate complex, the East Berlin side lined with guard posts, dog runs, and row upon row of barbed wire. The pilot drew our attention to pits of raked gravel. If an East German guard ever let anybody slip past him to escape to West Berlin, the pilot told us, the guard would find himself forced to explain the footprints to his commanding officer.

That evening, I broke away from the advance team to join a dozen Berliners for dinner. Our hosts were Dieter and Ingeborg Elz. Germans themselves, the Elzes had retired to Berlin after Dieter completed his career at the World Bank in Washington. Although we had never met, we had friends in common, and the Elzes offered to put on this dinner party to give me a feel for their city. They had invited Berliners of different walks of life and political outlooks—businessmen, academics, students, homemakers.

BerlinermauerWe chatted for a while about the weather, German wine, and the cost of housing in Berlin.

Then I related what the diplomat told me, explaining that after my flight over the city I found it difficult to believe.

“Is it true?” I asked. “Have you gotten used to the wall?”

The Elzes and their guests glanced at one another uneasily.

I thought I had proven myself just the sort of brash, tactless American the diplomat was afraid the president might seem.

Then one man raised an arm and pointed. “My sister lives twenty miles in that direction,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in more than two decades. Do you think I can get used to that?”

Another man spoke. Each morning on his way to work, he explained, he walked past a guard tower. Each morning, the same soldier gazed down at him through binoculars. “That soldier and I speak the same language. We share the same history. But one of us is a zookeeper and the other is an animal, and I am never certain which is which.”

Our hostess broke in. A gracious woman, she had suddenly grown angry. Her face was red. She made a fist with one hand and pounded it into the palm of the other. “If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk ofglasnost and perestroika,” she said, “he can prove it. He can get rid of this wall.”

“That’s What I’d Like to Say”

Back at the White House I told Tony Dolan, then director of presidential speechwriting, that I intended to adapt Ingeborg Elz’s comment, making a call to tear down the Berlin Wall the central passage in the speech. Tony took me across the street from the Old Executive Office Building to the West Wing to sell the idea to the director of communications, Tom Griscom.

“The two of you thought you’d have to work real hard to keep me from saying no,” Griscom now says. “But when you told me about the trip, particularly this point of learning from some Germans just how much they hated the wall, I thought to myself, ‘You know, calling for the wall to be torn down—it might just work.’ ”

The following week I produced an acceptable draft. It needed work, but it set out the main elements of the address, including the challenge to tear down the wall. On Friday, May 15, the speeches for the president’s trip to Rome, Venice, and Berlin, including my draft, were forwarded to the president, and on Monday, May 18, the speechwriters joined him in the Oval Office. My speech was the last we discussed. Tom Griscom asked the president for his comments on my draft. The president replied simply that he liked it.

Now, you might suppose that after hearing the president say he liked his draft, a speechwriter would feel so delighted he’d leave it at that. Somehow, it didn’t work that way. As a speechwriter you spent your working life watching Reagan, talking about Reagan, reading about Reagan, attempting to inhabit the very mind of Reagan. When you joined him in the Oval Office, you didn’t want to hear him say simply that he liked your work. You wanted to get him talking, revealing himself. So you’d go into each meeting with a question or two you hoped would intrigue him.

at-desk“Mr. President,” I said, “I learned on the advance trip that your speech will be heard not only in West Berlin but throughout East Germany.”

Depending on weather conditions, I explained, radios would be able to pick up the speech as far east as Moscow itself.

“Is there anything you’d like to say to people on the other side of the Berlin Wall?”

The president cocked his head and thought. “Well,” he replied, “there’s that passage about tearing down the wall. That wall has to come down. That’s what I’d like to say to them.”

Squelchfest

With three weeks to go before it was delivered, the speech was circulated to the State Department and the National Security Council (NSC). Both attempted to squelch it. The assistant secretary of state for Eastern European affairs challenged the speech by telephone.

A senior member of the NSC staff protested the speech in memoranda. The ranking American diplomat in Berlin objected to the speech by cable. The draft was naive. It would raise false hopes. It was clumsy. It was needlessly provocative. State and the NSC submitted their own alternate drafts—my journal records that there were no fewer than seven, including one written by the diplomat in Berlin. In each, the call to tear down the wall was missing.

Now, in principle, State and the NSC had no objection to a call for the destruction of the wall. The draft the diplomat in Berlin submitted, for example, contained the line, “One day, this ugly wall will disappear.” If the diplomat’s line was acceptable, I wondered at first, what was wrong with mine?

Then I looked at the diplomat’s line once again. “One day”? One day the lion would lie with the lamb, too, but you wouldn’t want to hold your breath. “This ugly wall will disappear”? What did that mean? That the wall would just get up and slink off of its own accord? The wall would disappear only when the Soviets knocked it down or let somebody else knock it down for them, but “this ugly wall will disappear” ignored the question of human agency altogether.

What State and the NSC were saying, in effect, was that the president could go right ahead and issue a call for the destruction of the wall—but only if he employed language so vague and euphemistic that everybody could see right away he didn’t mean it.

The week the president left for Europe, Tom Griscom began summoning me to his office each time State or the NSC submitted a new objection. Each time, Griscom had me tell him why I believed State and the NSC were wrong and the speech, as I’d written it, was right. When I reached Griscom’s office on one occasion, I found Colin Powell, then deputy national security adviser, waiting for me. I was a thirty-year-old who had never held a full-time job outside speechwriting.

Powell was a decorated general. After listening to Powell recite all the arguments against the speech in his accustomed forceful manner, however, I heard myself reciting all the arguments in favor of the speech in an equally forceful manner. I could scarcely believe my own tone of voice. Powell looked a little taken aback himself.

President Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate June 12, 1987

President Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate June 12, 1987

A few days before the president was to leave for Europe, Tom Griscom received a call from the White House chief of staff, Howard Baker, asking Griscom to step down the hall to his office.

“I walked in and it was Senator Baker [Baker had served in the Senate before becoming chief of staff] and the secretary of state—just the two of them.”

Secretary of State George Shultz now objected to the speech.

“He said, ‘I really think that line about tearing down the wall is going to be an affront to Mr. Gorbachev,’ ” Griscom recalls.

“I told him the speech would put a marker out there. ‘Mr. Secretary,’ I said, ‘the president has commented on this particular line and he’s comfortable with it. And I can promise you that this line will reverberate.’ The secretary of state clearly was not happy, but he accepted it. I think that closed the subject.”

It didn’t.

When the traveling party reached Italy (I remained in Washington), the secretary of state objected to the speech once again, this time to deputy chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein. “Shultz thought the line was too tough on Gorbachev,” Duberstein says.

On June 5, Duberstein sat the president down in the garden of the estate in which he was staying, briefed him on the objections to the speech, then handed him a copy of the speech, asking him to reread the central passage.

Reagan asked Duberstein’s advice. Duberstein replied that he thought the line about tearing down the wall sounded good. “But I told him, ‘You’re president, so you get to decide.’ And then,” Duberstein recalls, “he got that wonderful, knowing smile on his face, and he said, ‘Let’s leave it in.’ ”

The day the president arrived in Berlin, State and the NSC submitted yet another alternate draft. “They were still at it on the very morning of the speech,” says Tony Dolan. “I’ll never forget it.” Yet in the limousine on the way to the Berlin Wall, the president told Duberstein he was determined to deliver the controversial line. Reagan smiled. “The boys at State are going to kill me,” he said, “but it’s the right thing to do.”

The Lessons of History

No matter how it may seem in retrospect, there was nothing inevitable about the event that took place twenty-five years ago this week. The fall of the Berlin Wall took place because certain men and women—people including Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Ronald Reagan—took certain specific actions, demonstrating their capacity for reason and courage. And that, really, is why we study history: to remind ourselves that if those who went before us could do the right thing, then we can do no less ourselves.

 

Peter Robinson is editor in chief of Ricochet.com, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and host of the interview program Uncommon Knowledge. He is the author of several books, including How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, from which parts of this essay are adapted.

Basic Leadership Lessons From Lady Gaga

imagesI was approached recently by a friend who was elected last year to his local city council.

He was looking for a book on municipal government to help take a principled approach to the myriad issues he faces from property rights and valid zoning restrictions, to pet laws and public infrastructure, from Sunday use of public sports facilities and local alcohol license restrictions, to backyard hens and the fluoridation of their municipal water supply.

But I think the problem goes deeper than these issues and I am quite certain the solution is more than a book.

It’s Just Broken

I understand that society, like language, evolves, and that is not always a bad thing. But there are so many changes in our society that seem counter-productive or actually destructive that I am now fully alarmed.

What if society is actually broken, and like the frogs in a pot of slowly heated water, we have become so used to the gradual degradation that we don’t and won’t see the damage until it is too late for our marriages, our families, and our communities?

American culture was built on the principles of husband and wife marital fidelity, familial togetherness and dependence, and local community spirit. As these things are being replaced with “A Brave New World” style sexuality, a normalization of broken, blended, and single-parent homes, and dependence on state and federal government handouts, how will this impact the future of society?

In western and eastern cultures, society has been a focus of human endeavor since before Moses, Aristotle, or Muhammad. Society is a human condition. It is a balance of living in close proximity in a community setting, while maintaining a sense of individualism and family. I am always taken back by stories like Little House on the Prairie or the stories of the Wild West, stories of people wanting to get away from it all and then seeking human companionship as soon as they achieve isolation.

Society has always been made up of segments or institutions that work together to satisfy the contradiction of the individual’s need to be alone, and the desire to be surrounded by structure and the masses of humanity.

These institutions can be generally identified as: education, business, family, religion/church, media, community, and government. Each of these institutions fulfills a need in society both collectively and individually and has a tendency to support the other institutions. But as human nature has both good and bad, each of these social institutions has a natural inclination to lord over the others.

7

Without spirituality or religion/church, we have no central sense of right and wrong; without business, we have little economic stability or wealth creation; without family, we struggle to fill our deep-seated need for familial love, respect, honor and security; without government our rights have little probability of being protected; without media (well maybe we could do without the media) we have no connection to the rest of the world or even the next city over; without a system of education, we can not perpetuate who we are or progress beyond bare necessities; without community we feel alone and isolated.

Institutions of Society

It is likely in our complex world that we have given the social institutions idea little thought, but take it away, for example, as during the disaster of hurricane Katrina, and you get a very clear vision of life without orderly society. But it doesn’t have to take a natural disaster to threaten the peace of organized society. One of the most common threats to peaceful, invigorating, nurturing society is the rise of one institution over the others.

The most obvious are a tyrannical government or heavy-handed church authority. History is replete with accounts of both and the outcome was never good. This dominant position can be achieved either by force and coercion or by gentle, constant persuasion (Alexis De Tocqueville discusses this at length in his classic Democracy in America). To better understand this concept, see the illustrations below:

TYRANNY
gov1

 

CAPITALISM (Not to be confused with Free Enterprise)

Cap

The lack of true leadership in any one of these social institutions accompanied by the subsequent imbalance of power, causes a society to go astray and for the citizens to suffer. This all sounds kind of academic, but there are many historic and current examples of this kind of social imbalance and the damage it leaves in its wake.

Which brings me to Lady Gaga. (I know you have been waiting for this)images

I didn’t like Madonna and I like Lady Gaga even less…but you have to hand it to both of these so-called artists, they both exhibit qualities that are vital to the success of Social Leaders and Statesmen.

Both of these modern musical icons had a vision of where they wanted to go, they believed in their ability to accomplish that goal, and they let nothing stop them in their pursuit.

It was almost a religion to them.

How many great (meaning impactful, not wonderful) men and women in history exhibited these same qualities? These character traits are neutral, they can be used by both moral and immoral individuals. Both liberty and tyranny have benefited from the application of these leadership traits.

But make no mistake–impactful and long lasting leadership must include; a strong sense of vision for the future, a firm belief in the rightness of one’s cause/vision, and a relentless pursuit of that vision. On a local level, we call this Social Leadership.

Social leadership is simple but not necessarily easy. It is the act of providing leadership–as described above– in one or more the seven social institutions. This sounds simplistic, but how many parents/spouses, for example, are engaged in promoting, protecting and perpetuating the sanctity of the family—just by how they live?

grandparentsgamesHow many grandparents really understand their role in the family, and sacrifice to be involved in the lives of their grandkids?

How business owners do you know who ensure that their business or corporation promotes values and virtues, how many entrepreneurs feel a stewardship towards the population who provide their living?

People who practice Social Leadership by applying vision, belief, and tenacity to one or more of these institutions seldom acquire fame or recognition, but without them the very fabric of our peace and tranquility would be destroyed.

An advance level of Social Leadership is the perilous job of maintaining the balance of all these various institutions.

gandhi-indian-times-01This is a job designed for that individual who after acquiring a strong liberal arts education and years of experience in Social Leadership in her chosen institution(s) of society, now feels the call to work from the bigger picture to advocate, maintain and sustain that delicate balance of societal power so vital to lasting happiness.

We call this type of person a Statesman.

Our definition (actually the great philosopher Aristotle’s definition) is that “what the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”

Common Sense
iacoccaIn Lee Iacocca’s book Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, he strikes a poignant cord—with all of these problems we are facing, where is the outrage? And now that he mentions it, where the heck are all of the leaders?

Why is no one other than “beltway fever” politicians putting forth answers, and bad ones at that.

Why are we all just standing around waiting? And what are we waiting for? Where are the ordinary men and women who are the legacy of this great nation?

The Sergeant York’s, the Mr. Smith’s, the Rosa Park’s, the Preston Tucker’s and the adherents of Cincinnatus?

Where are the everyday leaders in society, who have the common horse sense to solve these problems?

Why when every thinking man and woman in this nation knows in their core that, universal health care or a $700 billion bail out or continuing participation in far away wars that we will never win are just about the worst things we can do to a nation already drowning in debt, why then do some of us stand around and calculate how we might profit from such a travesty? And why do the rest of us allow it?

With all of the resources in our modern society; family, media, community, business, church, local government and education–we should have at least few really good solutions being discussed and promoted from every tavern, small business, restaurant, board room and dining room table.

I study history, and I have to tell you, it doesn’t look good. Historically, no nation (outside of Nineveh) has every noticed their own folly in real time. We are no exception. Like other nations from the past, we either assume that we are smarter than the last civilization who tried to borrow their way out of debt (or dig their way out a hole) or we are so ignorant that we don’t have any idea what is happening at all. Either way, our existing course adds up to a really bad time.

So I will take my own admonition and offer a solution, one that I believe has been the salvation of this nation many times in the past and is likely to be the hope for us now. I call it A Renaissance in Social Leadership.

Social Leadership: A Lost Leadership Art

renaissanceIt is generally agreed upon by historians that the Dark Ages came to an end by the advent of a period known as the Renaissance.

This was a period most known for ordinary people and aristocrats alike, who seeing a need in their families, towns, cities and nations, determined to improve themselves and provided much needed societal leadership through rigorous study and the revival of many of the arts, sciences and knowledge lost during the previous 400 years.

Many of these self appointed leaders believed that the church and the government, who had been the stewards of the people’s hearts and minds for so long, were not fully meeting the needs of the people and determined to do something about it. Thus began the Renaissance.

Today I believe it is time for such a renewal: a Renaissance of Social Leadership. I see a vast need for a Renaissance in education and creativity and relationships and values. A Renaissance of Social Leadership means a rejuvenation of individuals, families, and communities.

A Renaissance of Social Leadership means a rediscovery of the joy of learning for learning’s sake, the development of personal mission and a focus on unleashing your personal genius.

But what does this mean in everyday living? It means that rather than just waiting around to be told what to do, we as citizens need to take a leadership role in our communities. It means that mothers and fathers need to start acting like the stewards that they really are and can be.

It means that rather than following the media blindly, we should hold them accountable. It means that we should be actively engaged in our local governments, anxiously following and being involved in our immediate governance.

It means that we should all be pursuing a lifetime education for ourselves and taking an active ownership in the elementary and secondary educations of our children. And demanding a lot more from higher Ed.

It means demanding, encouraging, and providing businesses in our communities that are beneficial to society and who give back a lot. And it means living a life style that is in tune with our spiritual selves.

Although the tactics may be complicated, the strategy is simple—we must take our lives back. We must stand up, assume responsibility and demand that government limit itself, that media stick to reporting the news instead of trying to make it.

husband-wife-embraceWe must be loyal husbands and wives, dedicated mothers and fathers.

We must participate in education by example, not coercion.

We must purposefully get out of debt and create family financial stability.

This Renaissance will happen. But it may have to smolder for decades unless and until you and I decide to do something about it. No government, no church, no civic organization will or can do it on its own for they are made up of people.

This must be a Renaissance of the people, of marriages, of families, and of communities. The time is now for each of us to decide—more of the same—or do we step into our god-given greatness and lead?

 

The Failing American Dream: There Is A Cure

abc_stossel_090910_mainIn April of this year, John Stossel wrote a thought provoking article about the ability of never quitting as being the reason America has been successful.

I quote him here:

In the USA, it’s OK to fail and fail and try again. In most of Europe and much of the world, the attitude is: You had your shot, you failed, and now you should just go work for someone else.

 

But this limits the possibilities. And some of America’s biggest successes came from people who failed often.

 

We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but few people know that Edison filed 1,000 patents for ideas that went nowhere. He was fired by the telegraph office. He lost money investing in a cement company and an iron business.

 

Henry Ford’s first company failed completely.

 

Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers.

 

Oprah was fired from her first job as a reporter. A TV station called her “unfit for TV.”

 

But they all kept striving — and succeeded. They were lucky to live in America, where investors and your neighbors encourage you to try and try again. We are lucky to benefit from their persistence.

 

But those happy experiments are less likely to happen today. Now there are many more rules, and regulators add hundreds of pages of new ones every week.

 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban left school with no money and no job prospects. He managed to become a billionaire by creating several businesses from scratch. I asked him if he could do it again today, and he said, “No … now there’s so much paperwork and regulation, so many things that you have to sign up for that you have a better chance of getting in trouble than you do of being successful.”

 

That’s tragic.

 

It’s not just big corporations that get hassled by regulators, the way progressives might like to imagine.

lemonade-stand

Kids’ lemonade stands — and one I tried to open in New York City — are sometimes shut down for not having proper business licenses.

 

When Chloe Stirling was 11-years-old, health officials shut down her home cupcake-making business.

 

The more government “protects” us, the more it puts obstacles in the way of trying new things. It does that every time it taxes, regulates and standardizes the way things are done. Simultaneously, government offers “compassion” — welfare and unemployment benefits.

 

Faced with the choice of collecting unemployment or putting your own money at risk and hiring an army of lawyers to deal with business regulations, I understand why people don’t bother trying. When that attitude is pervasive, the American dream dies.

 

On my TV show this week, economist David Goldman says, “The U.S. government has done everything possible to make it hard for people to take a new idea from inception to startup to expansion.” He says that when he told a former CEO that he was going to be on my show, the ex-CEO said: “Just tell them to shut Washington down. That’s all they need to do!”

 

Washington won’t shut down. But couldn’t regulators just chill out for a while?

 

Big government doesn’t send us the message that we can make it on our own and that great things may happen if we dare to try. Government mostly hinders us, and then brags that it is waiting to take charge when we fail.

I believe that the American Dream can still become the American REALITY!

But it requires a singular mindset. We have to be willing to work hard and do things that we are not used to. It demands personal responsibility for our own outcomes and doing some double duty (working at more than one thing at a time). And we will have to spend less time watching “American Idol” and more time developing our ideas and taking educated risks.

170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville stated that, “[Americans] are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. . . “

Tocqueville was very clear, it is impossible to reach our potential without taking complete responsibility for  our actions and owning our current conditions.

I have spent the entirety of 2014 to this point, speaking anywhere people would listen regarding this very issue and then offering solutions that the average American could engage to turn the situation around.

My main message has been that there is no political liberty without financial liberty and to engage in financial liberty or FREE ENTERPRISE, there must exist a certain level of political liberty.

cleon-skousen-speakingOne of my mentors, Cleon Skousen, always taught that the magic of America was that the citizens, free from government intervention, had the right to try, buy, sell and fail. And if you tried enough times, you would most likely succeed.

Today that philosophy has been replaced with that of avoiding risk at all cost and being safe and working for the government or a big multi-national corporation.

This sounds more like a personal wealth death sentence.

To have the kind of financial health that will allow a citizen to engage in liberty of all kinds requires enough residual income to meet all day-to-day living expenses plus 30% to provide citizenship activity flexibility (donations to or promotion of liberty causes or time spent at the state or federal legislature or local political service or speaking and writing, etc)

[Residual income, is income that continues to be generated after the initial effort or cost has been expended. Royalties or rent income for example, are types of residual income.]

For example, if your living expenses are $4,000 per month, you will need a minimum of $6,300 of monthly residual income or $76,000 per year (approximately 20% for taxation and $1,200 for liberty flexibility) to be economically independent and able to engage in liberty.

There is no longer any question, America faces a multiple front crisis; a serious retirement crisis along with a potentially disastrous national and personal debt crisis.

Most Americans recall the devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We sat in utter horror and even screamed at our computer screens as we helplessly watched people being swept away by the unrelenting waters.

The financial crisis we face today is no less menacing. The current financial tsunami is acting very much like the event of 2004. As the economic tide recedes, we watch not in horror but in curiosity or even total oblivion. The entire nation appears to be suffering from Normalcy Bias,* denying or ignoring that a crisis exists at all. All the while, the water has reversed and is now up around our ankles.

What needs to happen is that real men and women need to face their fears, be responsible and be willing to determinedly taking control of their own destinies.

If we yearn for our children and grandchildren to enjoy the freedoms that we do today, developing this level of Financial Freedom Health is a moral and familial imperative.

Take the Financial Freedom Health/Education Assessment and see how prepared you are to perpetuate financial and political freedom.

Financial Freedom Health/Education Assessment

  1. Do you have an adequate retirement plan? (Based on the $76,000 residual annual income discussed above, this means a $1,750,000 nest egg with a 4% annual dividend. Using the accumulation method at 7.9% earned interest annually, this will require retirement plan installment payments of $1,215 each month for 30 years. A business or a properly acquired real estate portfolio can accomplish the same residual income in a much shorter time and in a safer manner).
  1. If your current retirement plan is not adequate, do you have the skills and resources to correct it?
  1. Have you done sufficient research to really know if your retirement plan is crisis proof? 
  1. Do you review your retirement plan semi-annually? Are staying up-to-date on all law and policy changes that could impact your retirement plan and investments?
  1. Do you have enough knowledge to trust your retirement providers or are you “blindly”trusting them?
  1. Do you have a will or living will or a revocable trust in place? Why? Have you explored all options?
  1. Do you have your investments protected as much as law will allow? Are you sure?

If any of these questions are troubling to you, click here to begin a free course on financial freedom.

Col Sanders

In the USA, it used to be OK to fail and fail and try again.

Before Harland Sanders became world-famous Colonel Sanders, he was a sixth-grade dropout, a farmhand, an army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an insurance salesman, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, an (unsuccessful) political candidate, a gas station operator, a motel operator and finally, a restaurateur.

At the age of 65, a new interstate highway snatched the traffic away from his Corbin, Ky., restaurant and Sanders was left with nothing but a Social Security check and a secret recipe for fried chicken.

As it turned out, that was all he needed.

If you, like Colonel Sanders, refuse to give up on the American Dream, click here to start your American Dream education.

 

* Normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations.

A Whole New Take on “Selfies”

This post is a reprint from the Inspirational Weekly dated October 6th. 

narcissusAlthough the Oxford Dictionary officially made “selfie” a real word in 2013, the truth is that selfies are nothing new.

Tina Issa wrote in the Huffington Post that “this selfie revolution is annoying. It has made people selfish and narcissistic.”

Not so, Tina; selfies merely reveal something about human nature that is as old as time.

As you know, the Greeks gave us the first formally recorded instance of a selfie in the story of Narcissus. The beautiful young hunter died of starvation because he could not tear himself away from his reflection in a pool of water.

The myth gave us the term “narcissism,” meaning an obsession on oneself.

There is a deep irony with narcissism: for all their obsession on themselves, narcissists never gain any real insight into themselves.

The real problem with narcissism and selfies isn’t the mere obsession on self, but rather the level of obsession.

The ditzy duck-faces and preposterous provocative poses reflect an embarrassingly shallow perspective. Selfies portray less what shows in the mirror than they betray a lack of depth beneath what the eyes can see.

In truth, a deep obsession with self can be a good thing — if the purpose is self-improvement and self-honesty.

What the world needs is less selfies and more self-evaluation. Or shall we say, “selfievaluation”?

We need fewer people obsessed with flashing external appearances and more people consumed with developing internal character.

Christ taught,

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

“Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

A modern-day version could be,

“Why do you gaze at yourself in the mirror so often and so intensely without ever looking deeper?

“Will you flaunt your superficial beauty before the world, while veiling your ugly character flaws?

“Focus first on developing your inner beauty, and your light will shine from within.”

The purpose of selfies is to scream to the world, “Look at me! Look at how beautiful, glamorous, and cool I am!”

self-improvementThe purpose of selfievaluation is to look at oneself in the eyes and say, “How can I improve myself?

Am I being honest with myself?

How can I serve others better?”

Selfies grab the spotlight and point them at oneself; external light is necessary when one’s internal light has been dimmed by selfishness.

Selfievaluations kindle a light from within.

Provocative selfies objectify the person taking them. Humble selfievaluations make a person more truly human.

Selfies cheapen the subject; selfievaluations exalt.

As Narcissus died physically, today’s narcissistic selfie-takers wither away spiritually.

Longfellow’s classic poem, “A Psalm of Life,” opens with the stanza,

“Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream, For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.”

All that glitters is not gold; the people we look up to and the goals we aspire to are not always worthy of our veneration, time, and attention; impulsive pleasures can be followed by agonizing pain; pretty faces and perfect bodies often conceal empty heads and rotten souls; slick talkers and fancy dressers often mask ill intent and an utter lack of substance.

And incessant, egotistical selfies display not physical beauty, but rather mental shallowness and spiritual poverty.

The world will change when we stop taking silly selfies, and instead take sensible selfievaluations.

Perform a Selfievaluation on Your Finances

  • Do you work because you want to, or because you have to?
  • How confident are you that you will be able to retire when you want with the income you want?
  • When you look at your finances today, are you where you hoped you would be 5 or 10 years ago? Have you made as much progress as you planned on, or do you feel stuck?
  • If you keep doing what you’re doing, will you be where you want to be within the next 5 – 10 years?

If any of these questions make you feel uncomfortable, I urge you to take this free educational course, “Financial Freedom 2.0: The Fastest & Safest Way to Escape the Rat Race.”

For more excellent content go to Inspirational Weekly

Funding Monticello College: A 21st Century Approach

Historically, most American institutions of higher education struggled to fund themselves. Non-profit institutions did not generally have mechanisms for generating revenue. Thus they relied on tuition, donations, and an endowment.

downloadHarvard, America’s first school, suffered this same fate. In 1636, without any endowment (the gift from John Harvard, the school’s name sake was quickly squandered) the college opened it doors but due to lack of finances, it wasn’t long before they closed those doors, reopening later and repeating the process several times in its early history.

increase_matherIn 1642 Harvard’s president, thirty year-old Henry Dunster, went on a fund raising tour and secured enough “in-kind” subscriptions  called “colledge corne,” from local county residents to stabilize the finances.

But those subscriptions petered out in less than a decade.

Citizen subscriptions, sparce local taxes, donations, tuition, and endowments are how higher education was funded from 1636 until the early 1900’s.

By the end of WWII, the G.I. Bill became the popular means of funding higher education.

In 1965, the Johnson administration implemented the HEA (Higher Education Act), which served to help the poor and significantly increased the college population, but it also started the trend that we all now face– sky-rocketing tuition rates. By 1972 Pell Grants and ever popular student loans were added to the funding options provided to low and middle income students.

Since federal funded tuition was swelling the ranks of higher education, the government determined that it now had to regulate that which it was funding.

Accreditation morphed from a system of academic equivalence to the gate keeper of all higher academia, whether your students were receiving federal funds or not. (See the Monticello College white paper to determine if all of this money has improved the quality of higher education today.)

At Monticello College, we take a firm stand in not accepting a single dollar of federal money. We neither desire federal assistance nor do we ask for its oversight. But after 5 decades of Americans on the educational dole, the average family does not have the funds to pay for tuition out of pocket. We have lost the concept of pay-our-own-way.

As a result, Monticello College must find creative ways to fund our operations and build our endowment.

Enter Strongbrook.maxresdefault

Strongbrook is a real estate investment company with a unique 21st century approach to building client investment portfolio’s.

Probably the best explanation I have every heard comes from a 22-year-old college student video.

In an effort to funding the school, Monticello College has entered into a loose association with Strongbrook introducing the benefits offered by this exceptional company to our friends and supporters.

Not only can Strongbrook assist families in securing a strong and vibrant economic future, it helps to create the means to provide funds for student tuition.  Monticello College is also investing into a Strongbrook financial Game Plan with the intention of securing enough investment property to fully fund our endowment.

Click Here to watch a short video to learn more.

Click Here for a Free PDF book or audio book. (Passcode is….FREE)

Since launching in 2007, Strongbrook has helped more than 2,500 investors across 47 states invest profitably in real estate — during the worst recession we’ll see in our lifetimes.

In fact, their investors averaged a 19.8 percent return last year, despite the continued recession.

Meet real Strongbrook investors and hear their stories by watching this video:

P.S. I appreciate that this funding approach may seem unusual or even uncomfortable to some of you. All change is uncomfortable. And higher education is changing before our very eyes. Technology is having as much impact on higher education as it has had on everything else.

In a Fourth Turning world nothing remains the same.

Give us a fair chance to show you some things you may not know. Take the time to watch the videos or read the MC white paper or free books offered or click here to get an awesome education in financial freedom called Financial Freedom 2.0. At the very least, you will learn some things you didn’t know. In the best case scenario, this could change your entire financial future.

What The H— Is Wrong With America? – Part Three – The Demise Of The American Middle Class

CLICK HERE TO READ PART ONE
CLICK HERE TO READ PART TWO

320px-Sign_of_the_Times-ForeclosureBefore we talk about how to increase personal financial autonomy, let’s be very clear on the current state of financial autonomy for the vast majority of Americans today.

A few Google searches produce a frightening collection of articles, books, newscasts, editorials, and government statistics all pointing to a condition never before experienced by the United States of America–WE ARE BROKE. WORSE, WE ARE IN UNRECOVERABLE DEBT.

The United States government has put the nation in debt several times before over the past 200 years.

But it was always recoverable. Today not only are we swimming in a bottomless pit of national debt, the middle class has adopted the policy for their personal affairs.

Over the past year, I have interviewed every couple in my classes and in other environments (over 150 couples now) to assess their financial health. These couples range from low to high middle-class income levels, which means anywhere from $40,000 to $500,000 gross annual income.

Blog-Post-1-PictureVirtually every family I have interviewed has admitted to living at or above their income.

This translates to having no discretionary income and almost universally spending all income on consumer debt maintenance.

Few of these couples have any kind of retirement plan beyond a nominally preforming 401k and more than 75% of these couples have no will or revocable trust in place.

This phenomenon was the focus of a Forbes Magazine article in early 2013. I quote, “we are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the ‘new normal’ for many elderly Americans. ”

The author goes on to say:

Corporate America and the financial wizards behind the past three decades of so­ called retirement innovations, most notably titans of the pension benefits consulting and mutual fund 401(k) industries, are down­playing just how bad things are already and how much worse they are going to get.

 

Americans today are aware that corporate pensions have been virtually eliminated and that the few remaining private, as well as the nation’s public pensions, are in jeopardy. Even if you are among the lucky few that have a pension, you cannot rest assured that it will be there for all the years you’ll need it. Whether you know it or not, someone is busy trying to figure how to screw you out of your pension.

 

Americans also know the great 401k experiment of the past 30 years has been a disaster. It is now apparent that 401ks will not provide the retirement security promised to workers.

 

As a former mutual fund legal counsel, when I recall some of the outrageous sales materials the industry came up with to peddle funds to workers, particularly in the 1980s, it’s almost laughable—if the results weren’t so tragic. 

The National Institute on Retirement Security published a report in June of last year entitled: The Retirement Savings Crisis: Is It Worse Than We Think?  

Here are a few highlights:

1. Account ownership rates are closely correlated with income and wealth. More than 38 million working-age households (over 45%) do not own any retirement account assets, whether in a employer sponsored 401k type plan or an IRA.

2. The average working household has virtually no retirement savings external to employer sponsored programs.

3. The collective retirement savings gap among working households age 25-64 ranges from $6.8 to $14 trillion, depending on the financial measure.  Based on recommended retirement account assets (retiring by age 67), 92 percent of working households do not meet targets.

What Do We Do About It?

First we have to change our thinking. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again–expecting different results. We are going to have to take charge of our own financial futures and begin thinking for ourselves. This is much harder than it reads on this page.

It was Adler who said that, “Anyone who has done any thinking, even a little bit, knows that it is painful. It is hard work, in fact the very hardest that human beings are ever called upon to do. It is fatiguing, not refreshing. If allowed to follow the path of least resistance, no one would ever think.”

taking-charge-of-my-life1-600x400Herein lies a primal cause of much of our financial dilemma.

Too many of us have voluntarily allowed others to do our financial thinking for us.

Our first step then in taking control of our  financial thinking is to acknowledge that the retirement schemes that we have been taught in school and that permeate our culture and workplaces are misrepresentations as best — fraudulent and criminal at worst.

We find ourselves in this dilemma because we have forgotten our heritage and the principles that America was founded on.

The founders understood that financial standing impacts political standing.

To be free politically you have to be free financially.

A Solution

To change our thinking we need a different kind of financial education. This is were my friend and fellow freedom fighter Stephen Palmer enters the picture.

PalmerStephen Palmer is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Week, and Amazon bestselling author of several books and hundreds of articles.

An avid entrepreneur and investor, Stephen has stunning insight into the laws of wealth and how to apply them at any level.

Because of his background and passion for freedom, Stephen has created a free online financial freedom education course entitled Financial Freedom 2.0: The Fastest & Safest Way to Escape the Rat Race.

If you want to change your financial thinking and establish your own family financial legacy, CLICK HERE.

Stephen’s free educational course consists of four thought-provoking and enlightening videos:

Video 1: What is Financial Freedom?

Can we make sound decisions if we do not have all the facts or our understanding is limited? Some people define financial freedom as, “being out of debt”, or “having all the money you need.” But those are not accurate definitions of financial freedom. Learn the technical definition of financial freedom that changes EVERYTHING about how you look at money.

Video 2: The Only 4 Ways To Become Financially Free

Learn the only four ways to escape the rat race (earned income or linear income), and the magic word of wealth creation. This concept alone will transform your thinking.

Video 3: The Traditional Plan That Stifles Financial Freedom

Learn why you can NEVER become financially free following the traditional “Nest Egg” accumulation plan. Learn the latest government statistics regarding retirement and why America is in retirement crisis.

Video 4: The Best Vehicle to Achieve Financial Freedom

Learn the fastest and safest ways to achieve financial freedom within 15 years. Even if you think this can’t help you, what about your children and grand children.

For every retiree who is doing well and is financially secure—three are not—that’s a 75% failure rate. This has direct to you and your children. But there are solutions.

This course will change the way you look at money, personal finances, and retirement forever. I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and watch a couple of these free videos.

CLICK HERE TO GET IMMEDIATE ACCESS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM 2.0