Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and touring his "Concert & Conversation" series in support of his book Life Is What You Make It.
On panel four of the Jefferson Memorial there is this quote:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
Why are we afraid of change? I know—the answer is fear of the unknown. We hold on to things we know because they’re comfortable…. safe. Even if we’re still wearing the ill-fitting coat of childhood that Jefferson talks about.
It’s why we stay in a bad relationship too long.
My dad looks back on American history as proof that we’ll weather the storm ... any storm. Based on economic indicators that define his livelihood, he sees a system that will make it through the tough times—World Wars, depression, etc.
It’s the view he has from the world he lives in. His success is based on his dispassionate, über-rational look at decision making. People’s welfare isn’t actually involved.
But he also points out that, given this country’s GDP (which, by the way, puts some very negative things in the plus column) we should not have people going to bed hungry and the depth of poverty that we see, both urban and rural. It’s not like he doesn’t see how out of balance the system is.
From my vantage point, this is the result of a different set of observations—the ones I’ve written about in this column. They include: this country was founded as a commercial enterprise; domination and exploitation was and is the rule of business law in an effort to maximize profits and shareholder value; and externalities like social and environmental degradation don’t hit the bottom line.
Add to this the mass distraction of media and consumerism and you’ve got the equivalent of the family going to the movies as the house is on fire. Or maybe at this point, the family at home in front of as many screens as there are people while the house is burning around them.
We’re in a bad relationship. This coat doesn’t fit anymore.
This country is not the country that Jefferson inhabited.
"With the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."
I think it’s safe to say that circumstances have changed. Are we going to be fearless enough to do something about it?
What do you think? Share your story at changeourstory.com. Visit www.peterbuffett.com to learn more and Change Our Story to join the conversation on how we all can become active participants in shaping our future.