The quotes we choose

Long time ago, a boy growing up in Russia, I came across a quote by President John F. Kennedy. It impressed me so much that I wrote it down and learned by heart. Many years later, already in the United States, I found it in English. Here it is:

I’m certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battles or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.

I wonder what President Kennedy—having presided over the defeat of the Bay of Pig Invasion and numerous victories over ladies—had specifically in mind when speaking of the “contribution to the human spirit”? His inaugural address? The Moonshot Program?

Now, I prefer a quote by another American President, Calvin Coolidge:

The business of America is business.

There is no question in my mind that as far as “business” is concerned, this country has a lot to be proud of.

In June, my wife and I were vacationing in Vermont, the birthplace of President Coolidge. One day, we bumped into a small store, and I was amused to see a hand-made poster with yet another Coolidge’s quote stuck in the window. This is what it read:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

The only point in this Coolidge’s quote I’d seriously challenge is his take on education. Whether in his time “educated derelicts” were such a common thing, I know not, but today, it’s uneducated derelicts who, in my opinion, represent a larger, growing problem.

I do hope that the future of this country won’t be decided in politics or, God forbid, in battles. I do believe that this future is in flourishing business contributing to the human spirit. And I do think that the American future will be properly secured only if this country preserves and expands its leadership position in innovation.

So, at a risk of sounding preposterous, let me offer the following line:

The business of America is innovation.

How about that?

Image credit: my family album

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is the Founder of (WoC)2, an innovation consultancy that helps organizations extract maximum value from the wisdom of crowds by coordinated use of internal and external crowdsourcing.
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