I have to admit I get more nostalgic and patriotic on this day more than any other holiday. We had a chance to travel to the heartland of America recently to celebrate the 90th birthday of my wife’s grandmother.
Whenever I have the option I love traveling on Virgin America as they just do things differently. The service, the flight, the options – all of it seems to be nostalgic of a time when a quality customer experience was a vital thing for business. Particularly when traveling from San Francisco to Chicago you tend to see the so called “flyover states”, miles and miles of farmland, blue skies and puffy white clouds. The stars and stripes fly proudly on every wingtip of Virgin America planes and make for a very patriotic trip if you have a window seat.
Leaving a Legacy
On this trip we had a chance to do a 48 hour layover in Chicago and do some fun touristy things. We went to historic Wrigley Field to take in a game and were excited when the Cubbies won and my son got a ball from the warmup pitcher. We took in Millennium park and had a reflective moment as a family in the giant chrome bean. We also had a chance to take a river tour of the historic architecture in downtown Chicago.
One of the highlights of the tour was the Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge, at one time the longest and heaviest bascule bridge as well as one of the first all steel bridges in America. The Strauss Bascule and Concrete Bridge company and while you may not be familiar with the works of engineer Joseph Strauss, you most certainly are familiar with his crowning achievement and perhaps greatest legacy – the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Upon completion of the Golden Gate Bridge and a year before his death, Strauss returned to writing poetry, and penned some awe inspiring words about the red tinted bridge. He wrote in “The Mighty Task is Done“:
At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.
Anyone who frequents crossing this bridge can immediately see the powerful imagery in Strauss’ words. Upon leaving Golden Gate park you can see the South tower rising high above the mountains. Crossing over with the sunroof open the towers seem to slice the fog like some gigantic axe and as the tides rise and fall in the bay the piers remain unfazed against a constant barrage of both wind and waves. Talk about a legacy.
Likewise we traveled to the Davenport Iowa on the banks of the mighty Mississippi and had several days of family and friends, telling great stories of grandma’s 90 years in this world. As our time wound down we decided to cross the river into Moline, IL and visit the John Deere Pavilion – the perfect end to a quick vacation with two boys who love tractors. Upon entering it is a green and yellow playground of combines, tractors, and other heavy equipment. There was a great synopsis of the legacy of the man who has his name on countless millions of farm equipment around the globe. John Deere himself faced many setbacks, including having his blacksmith shop burn down not once but twice and facing bankruptcy as a result. But he pursued his dream, continued on with determination and vision and the company that bears his name is still in existence nearly 200 years later.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
America is full of stories of triumph, success, and overcoming the odds for both native and immigrants. Whether it is Steve Jobs as an orphan and college dropout or Elon Musk and his continued efforts in both electric vehicles and private space exploration, America has brilliant minds and determined spirits to not let life happen to them but to make life happen. Famous and not so famous names are changing the way we work, connect, communicate and grow in life today. Entrepreneurship is now a common course of study in major universities and the stigma of being an entrepreneur is now replaced by support and encouragement to go out and break the status quo.
This afternoon we took the boys to the Pulgas Water Temple, the termination of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, where water completes its 167 mile journey from the mountains to supply 80% of the drinking water for over 3 million people in the Bay Area. At the base of the stone columns is a plaque with a fitting Old Testament verse:
I will give waters in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert
to give drink to my people.
The entrepreneurial spirit that runs in the veins throughout our country are so much more than just trying to get rich and famous. It is more about seeing a need that is not met, then losing sleep, money, and sometimes sanity to meet that need.
Happy Independence Day
As we celebrate the birth of our country today, let’s leave politics aside and be thankful for the country we have. The one that encourages us to pursue that which makes us happy, provides the freedom to pursue our dreams, and the infrastructure necessary to build your personal legacy.
Happy 4th to all!