Take away his fortune, fame, success, leadership, entrepreneurial achievement, philanthropic accomplishment and charming good looks, and I would consider myself a modern-day Edward Filene. OK...it's obviously a stretch. But let me explain.
Filene was a man who put philosophy into action. So am I. Filene believed in consumerism, capitalism, and the power (good and bad) of marketing. So do I.
He believed that one of the most important obligations that an American has is to his/her job - with hard work, dedication, innovation, and passion for creating satisfied customers being imperative. I believe that too. Filene also believed that in return for these qualities, workers should be taken care of by their employers. I couldn't agree more.
He believed in the power of self-help - that people, at the end of the day, must take responsibility for their own betterment. Amen, brother. He believed in cooperative self-help - that by electing to cooperatively tackle a problem, people had a better chance of allowing each other to help themselves. Preach it, Ed!
He hated usury, and believed that there is nothing more important than delivering the best possible product at the best possible price to consumers. Anything outside of that was inefficient and unsustainable on both macro and micro levels. My philosophy exactly.
He believed in credit unions. He believed that democratically owned and operated, not-for-profit financial cooperatives could play a vital role in providing low-cost access to credit to individuals who, outside of the credit union structure, seemed doomed to inefficient bank usury. You see, Filene knew that a democratically-operated financial institution had no choice but to serve its members. They are the shareholders. Thus, any earnings, profits, gains, etc. directly improved the lives of member-owners. So, what you have is this system in which members dictate the financial services they receive - from pricing, to products offered, to fee structure. Essentially, then, members are receiving the best possible products and services at the best possible prices. How cool is that?
Bad organizational decisions, when made, are made in good faith. At the end of the day, though, all decisions in such democracies are the will of the people: the members. I take comfort in that.
That takes me to my point (finally, I know). Anyone that knows me knows that I am a conservative. I believe in small government, low taxes, and a strong national defense. I believe that in America all people of all walks of life enjoy the promises of our Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe in the greatness of people - that at the end of the day truly free people are compelled to be good to one another.
I believe in less laws, not more laws. I believe that being successful in America should result in national praise, not punitive actions. I believe that in most cases hard work and a little luck are all it takes to succeed in the land of the free. And I believe that the combination of free markets and democracy, while imperfect, are the secrets to sustained economic and social greatness.
I did not vote for Barack Obama.
I happened to be in San Francisco on election night. What amazed me was the palpable feeling in the air. Aside from the dancing in the streets, horn honking, and pedestrian cheers, you could just see a sense of happiness on people's faces when Obama was announced as the winner. People were downright giddy - like kids on Christmas morning. Granted, this may have totally been a function of being in one of America's most liberal cities. But, the sense that I got was that America had spoken. I take comfort in that.
Democracy doesn't mean your "side" always wins. It means that, collectively, the people win. My political views will likely never allow me to vote for Barack Obama, but my patriotism and belief in American democracy requires that I respect and support the will of the people.
So, my vow to you is this: you will never hear me bash Barack Obama, the President. His election is the will of the people. And even though I know that many Americans did not afford this luxury to President Bush, I pledge my support, despite our dramatic disagreements, to Obama and his remarkable story. I must now trust that he will hold true to his word and be a representative of all of our people - no matter how we voted.
Filene and I could totally support that.