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The uncounted things that count the most

As summer wanes and the pressure-filled flurry of fall activities awaits, it is worth taking a moment today to exhale and evaluate. It is so easy in our fast-paced, get-it-done, get-ahead-now world to lose sight of what matters most. Albert Einstein wisely observed, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

When we spend time determining what counts in our life, we discover that many of the things which count the most simply cannot be counted. Things like: stress-free moments, inspiring thoughts, laughs, tears, confidence, love, satisfaction, pride, passion, joy, peace, excitement, connection are all among the things which matter most in life, and yet they are difficult to accurately or regularly count.

Success, progress and achievement are worthy goals that are worth pursuing and worth measuring. Yet, in almost every area of life there are things we count which don’t really count, and things which count that simply cannot be counted.

First and foremost, we must take the time to determine the things which truly count. Far too many of us find ourselves in that never-ending rat race of a chase in life, checking off tasks from our master to-do list which don’t really count in the end.

So we should ask ourselves: What matters most? What are the activities which will produce the results we desire in our personal life, in our family and in our community? Remember, being busy and being productive are NOT necessarily correlated, and motion can be deceptive when forward movement is what we are after.

We also must determine what doesn’t count. Theodore Roosevelt rightly identified something we should never count when he said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Critics definitely don’t count.

We will also discover that when we know what truly counts, we actually don’t have to worry about counting nearly as much. (For a guy like me who is horrible at math – less counting is a good thing!) Our success, happiness and peace of mind will be a natural byproduct of focusing on what counts and not counting what counts.

Einstein was right: In the arithmetic of success and achievement, happiness and peace of mind, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. Determining what counts for you is what really counts!

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here.

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Apples and government

Many Washington politicians have convinced themselves that they have the wisdom, power and authority to solve every problem the citizens of America could ever encounter. Sadly, this leads to bigger government, bloated bureaucracies, budget deficits and ballooning national debt. Worse still, it leads us as citizens to look to Washington for the solutions to our problems, which only increases the size, scope and cost of government.

I once helped Senator Mike Lee address this issue with our own version of an old fable to make the point. Up in the Pacific Northwest two brothers, Billy and Bobby, decided that they would sell apples to make some money. They set up a small fruit stand on the side of busy road then drove their old pickup out to the farmer’s orchard, where they purchased a truckload of apples at a price of one dollar an apple. They returned to their stand and began selling those apples – for the head-scratching price of … one dollar an apple.

After selling the entire load the brothers excitedly drove back to the orchard and bought another truckload of apples for the price of … one dollar an apple. Back at the fruit stand, apples were flying off the shelf – again at the price of … one dollar per apple. In no time they sold every apple and enthusiastically raced back for another load. They filled their truck and paid the farmer one dollar an apple. Sweaty and exhausted from their efforts, the two brothers hopped back in their truck and hurried toward their stand.

As they drove, Billy said to Bobby, “Ya know, I’ve been thinkin’ … we’ve been working really hard today and sold two truckloads of apples – but it doesn’t seem like we’re making any progress in our business.”

Bobby replied, “You know what? You’re right.” He thought long and hard, then asked, “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”

When it comes to the size, cost and scope of the federal government, we do not need a bigger truck. Like Billy and Bobby, we instead need to rethink what it is we are trying to accomplish and how best to achieve it. Unfortunately too many political leaders want a bigger truck – with a personalized license plate, heated leather seats, and a tricked-out stereo system.

Of course politicians never mention the price of the truck or how the payments will be made. Nor do they tell us that the big truck will not solve our problems, pay our mortgage, give us a job, or provide for our retirement. Our truck loan is currently payable to the Chinese government and will be painfully extracted from us today and from our grandchildren tomorrow.

So instead of a bigger truck – we really need smaller government, bigger citizens and more heroic communities.

You see, the opposite of bad government is NOT good government. It isn’t even just limited government. The opposite of bad government is civil society, where engaged citizens participate in elevated dialogue about powerful principles and enlightened public policy.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here.

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Dare to think

John Adams said, “The true source of our suffering has been our timidity. We have been afraid to think. … Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

With all of the difficulties, challenges and uncertainty we face in today’s complex, uncertain and ever-changing world, some people have decided to pretend that it is all just a bad dream; others are figuratively curled up in the fetal position hoping it will all go away; and still others are so weary that they have lost hope and are ready to give up. We must gain the confidence Adams described, the kind of courage that propels us as citizens to read, think, speak and write.

It is also vital for us to remember that our politicians rarely lead – they typically follow. Even going back to our beginning as a nation – the Declaration of Independence was a following document, not a leading document. My friend and former pollster Scott Rasmussen put it this way:

The eloquent statement of ideals in the Declaration was not even written until 15 months after the War of Independence got started. The Declaration was not important because it brought about change. It was important because it formally confirmed a change that had already taken place.

Long before the famous moments of 1776, a series of small changes in the minds and hearts of countless unknown individuals had already shaped a great destiny for the new nation. As John Adams put it, the “radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”

The entire process was a case of the culture leading and politicians lagging behind. One study of colonial literature suggests that the Revolution began quietly in homes and schoolrooms across the colonies in the reading lessons women gave to children.”

If as Americans we do not find and rediscover ourselves in this election cycle, we will never find a leader who can guide us anywhere that truly matters. We must follow Adams’ admonition and dare to read, think, speak and write. We must go beyond a superficial understanding of the issues and engage in elevated dialogue far beyond a 140-character tweet or vitriolic Facebook post.

The American people must stand up and dare to lead and the political class will certainly follow. Because, more than who will be sitting in the Oval Office, it is who is sitting at the kitchen table that matters; more than who is sitting behind the resolute desk in the West Wing, it is who is sitting behind the desk of a small business or who is kneeling by the side of the desk of a struggling student that matters; more than who is sitting in the situation room, it is who is sitting in the living room that makes the difference for America. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write – and boldly shape the direction and destiny of our great nation.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here.

 

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History’s great speeches are reflective and constructive, not ‘red meat’

Today we are in the middle of political convention season and the war of words and fiery rhetoric that go with it. Both of the major political parties are struggling to unite and rally the American people. The path of least resistance for public discourse is to demonize your opponent and gin up your supporters with passionate but divisive language. This approach creates much heat, but little light, and keeps us a safe distance from actually solving the problems we face as a nation.

I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t compare or contrast candidates for political office. It is fine to take on a political opponent and challenge or expose their record on the merits. How we do that reveals more about us than it does about an opponent.

Words have meaning, and meaning matters. So too, tone and style are telling, and can often obscure the substance of our words and meaning. Irrespective of party politics, the speeches most often recalled from history are not those of the fiery red-meat-rhetoric variety, but are instead reflective, instructive and constructive in both substance and style. Lincoln called on our “better angels,” John F. Kennedy challenged us to “ask what we can do for our country,” and Martin Luther King invited us to look at “the content of a person’s character.”

As a student of great leadership and as someone who believes in the power of effective communication, I recently reviewed some of the great speeches in history across political parties, religious groups and business enterprises. The great speeches never require shouts, insults, demonization or self-aggrandizement. Using “I” statements, such as “I am the leader you want,” “I am the most qualified,” or “I am the answer to your problems” do little to inspire or rally people. The best speakers get out of the way and let the principles unite the listeners with the excitement of what “we the people” can do together.

In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan delivered one of the most unique and stunning conclusions ever to a political acceptance speech. Just at the climax, when the convention hall was energized and ready to erupt, Reagan pivoted to the need for divine help and guidance on the journey toward a better America. He then asked every citizen to join him in a moment of silent prayer. Instead of ending on a red-meat applause line, Reagan ended with divinely centered silence! We clearly could use a little more silence in our public discourse.

At Sutherland Institute we are committed to empowering principles, elevated dialogue, enlightened public policy and engaged citizens. Our goal is to create uplifting conversations and public discourse, especially with those with whom we might disagree. There is a better way toward a better America – we invite all to join us in more meaningful dialogue and respectful debate.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here

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The road to happiness

Politics has been important from the founding of our nation – but strong individuals and community-driven solutions regularly serve us better than our political parties.

With both political parties holding their conventions over the next two weeks there will be an overload of analysis in the media. So this week’s Principle Matters is going to take a little journey off of the beaten path. Rather than focus on the government-driven solutions, we are going to focus on a set of principles that will create change, improvement and happiness – beginning with each of us as individuals.

The road to happiness and prosperity is never as difficult as we try to make it. In the late 1800s an unknown author penned a set of principles titled “The Road to Happiness.” The years have flown, the centuries have turned, times have changed, and technology has transformed the world, yet the road to real happiness remains unchanged. It is never to be found in the halls of Congress or emanating from some central government agency for happiness. It is found by following a set of simple principles.

Here is “The Road to Happiness”:

  • Keep skid-chains on your tongue; always say less than you think. How you say things often counts far more than what you say.
  • Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs you.
  • Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging thing to or about somebody. Praise good work done, regardless of who did it. If criticism is merited, criticize helpfully and never spitefully.
  • Be interested in others: interested in their pursuits, their welfare, their homes, and families. Make merry with those who rejoice and mourn with those who weep. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel that you regard them as a person of importance.
  • Be cheerful. Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Laugh at good stories and learn to tell them.
  • Preserve an open mind on all debatable questions. Discuss, but don’t argue. It is the mark of a superior mind to disagree and yet be friendly.
  • Let your virtues, if you have any, speak for themselves, and refuse to talk of another’s vices. Discourage gossip. Make it a point to say nothing to another unless it is something good.
  • Be careful of others’ feelings. Wit at the other fellow’s expense is rarely worth the effort and may hurt where least expected.
  • Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you. Simply live so that nobody will believe them.
  • Don’t be too anxious about getting your just dues. Do your work, be patient, keep your disposition sweet, forget self, and you will be respected and rewarded – on the road to Happiness!

Simple, powerful principles to build a better individual, family, neighborhood and nation. Imagine what could happen if everyone, especially our political leaders, pursued such a path?

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary aired on several radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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Principle Matters

Today I am pleased to announce that we are changing the name of the “Sutherland Soapbox” to “Principle Matters.” The change reflects Sutherland’s efforts to shift our focus from Boston-style, Revolutionary battles of what we are against, to a more compelling Philadelphia vision of what we are for – rooted in the principles outlined by the Constitution.

The dictionary defines a soapbox as “an improvised platform used by a spontaneous, or informal orator; something that provides an outlet for delivering opinions.” The term is often associated with strident voices going on a tirade about some controversial issue. Standing atop the soapbox has its place – but it is not enough. More important is to be able to share a vision for what we do want – a vision based on transformational principles.

And that’s why we’re changing the name of our radio commentary to “Principle Matters.” You’ll notice that the name has a double meaning: first, that leading from a position of sound principles is critical – it matters; second, “Principle Matters” describes what our commentaries will focus on. We will focus on the topics of utmost importance, the principle (and principal) matters of our time.

Gaylord Swim laid out our vision when he wrote that “[t]he Sutherland Dream is that we will promote principled patterns for governing and implement public policies that will be the envy of, and set a standard for, the nation.”

Some have wondered if a think tank located in Salt Lake City can really be heard. But being based in Utah is very fortunate, because from Utah’s laboratory of democracy, Sutherland Institute will sound the certain trumpet of sound principles and policies out to the country while providing a window in for all to see a Philadelphia vision in action.

So what are some of those principles, those foundational values and ideas? What are the subjects of greatest significance, the matters of principle importance?

Sutherland Institute is pursuing the path to “A New Birth of Freedom” for America through the pillars of a free market economy, civil society and federalism. Those three pillars are the matters of utmost importance. The free market is the economic engine that has and will continue to lift people from poverty. Civil society is the place where true compassion and community thrive – the family, the neighborhood, the church, and associations. And federalism – the proper balance between the federal and state governments and the various branches of government – is critical to a healthy, vibrant nation.

Thought leadership, compelling research, and strategic communication will enable Sutherland Institute to passionately promote and defend empowering principles, advocate for elevated dialogue, strive to produce enlightened public policy, and work to inspire more engaged citizens.

These are the principle matters. And we promote and defend them because, yes, principle does matter. And we invite you to join us on the path to “A New Birth of Freedom.”

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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The 3 stages of entrepreneurship in America

American entrepreneurship has been a driving force for democracy from the foundation of our nation and it must continue to be the fuel of freedom if we are to remain independent and strong as a nation. Entrepreneurs, not politicians or government agencies, are the central source for American success as they propel our free market economy and civil society.

Alex Mandossian described American history as three periods of entrepreneurship. The first period was entrepreneurial independence. We often, and rightly, describe the Founding Fathers as great, wise and noble men – which they clearly were. However, the Founders were not just upset about tea and taxes, nor were they strictly politically centered people – above all they were entrepreneurs and business owners who wanted to pursue their passions and dreams without the heavy hand of government controlling, regulating or determining their destiny.

The American entrepreneurial pursuit began in earnest with a protest battle in Boston, proceeded to a declaration of entrepreneurial independence on July 4th, 1776, and culminated in Philadelphia in 1787 with a Constitution that provided the framework for a government that would provide the structure and vision for a nation where every citizen could pursue their version of the American dream. These events ushered in a golden era of entrepreneurial independence. America grew, communities blossomed and individuals flourished.

Shortly after World War II many American entrepreneurs decided to trade their independence for a false sense of security by selling out to big – big corporations and big government. An era of “entrepreneurial dependence” ensued. Crony capitalism and collusion between big government and big business hurt entrepreneurs and led to large corporate scandals and corruption, including Enron and Worldcom. Big government unleashed unprecedented executive branch over-reach and unrelenting regulation.

Entrepreneurial dependence has led to our current state of semi-market collapse, a stagnant job market and global uncertainty, including Great Britain’s recent rejection of big centralized power and unaccountable bureaucracy through its vote to exit the European Union.

American entrepreneurs are approaching the dawn of a brighter future and a brand-new era of freedom which will be known as “entrepreneurial interdependence.” With the internet coming of age, social media exploding and a truly global economy we are about to enter the third and brightest era in entrepreneurial history.

American interdependence is actually one of the great gifts the Founding Fathers gave us. It is that we have a nation where your success depends on your service.

Our free market economy takes a lot of criticism for promoting greed and competition. None of our businesses, workers or entrepreneurs nor our charitable and social organizations survive unless they serve and help people.

Both in our free-enterprise economy and our voluntary civil society, success in America is ultimately based not on competition, but on interdependent cooperation. We look out for ourselves by looking out for everyone else. Freedom, properly understood, doesn’t mean you’re on your own. It means “we’re all in this together.”

American entrepreneurs must continue to drive freedom. We would be wise to remember that the ultimate American entrepreneurs are the couple exchanging vows at a local church, the teacher investing in a struggling student, the mom rocking a cradle, the neighbor seeing a chance to serve a neighbor. Opportunities to experience our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit are all around us. We are independent and yet interdependent – not reliant on big government but on each other. America is great, not because of who we are, but because of what we do.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an expanded transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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Unite programs to create path from poverty to prosperity

People in poverty are rarely poor because they don’t have access to money. It is usually because they don’t have access to opportunity.

The war on poverty really didn’t begin with Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It began in 1776, and for almost 200 years, America was winning the war on poverty. Tragically, and ironically, we didn’t start losing the war on poverty until the federal government declared that it would handle it.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln told Congress that the “leading object” of American government was “to elevate the condition of men – to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.” In a single sentence, Lincoln explains precisely what poverty is, and what government ought to do about it.

A constantly expanding government has spawned myriad disparate and often competing federal and state agencies and programs that are incentivized to be more concerned about protecting their turf than helping those in need.

If we are serious about the charge to lift artificial weights from all shoulders and provide all with a fair chance, we need to consolidate state and federal poverty programs – including health care, unemployment, education and general welfare programs. Having a unified “poverty to prosperity” program could transform the path of upward mobility. Its organizing principle should be to make poverty temporary instead of just tolerable by encouraging and rewarding the “success sequence,” including: finishing school/developing new skills, finding a job, getting married and having children within marriage, along with acquiring the disciplines, skills, tools, life structures and networks for lifelong learning and self-reliance.

We must replace programs that treat people in poverty like liabilities to be managed with a program that treats them like unique individuals – human assets, with unlimited potential to be developed.

Currently we offer financial or material benefits based on poverty status. In other words, our present approach makes people’s ability to improve their quality of life through government programs – including feeding their families, accessing health care, and gaining an education – dependent upon remaining in poverty! This “prosperity cliff” penalizes those who are truly striving to become self reliant – often putting those in poverty into inhumane situations where the most reasonable, and even responsible, option for them and their family is to remain in poverty. Many are trapped in poverty by the very government agencies that are supposed to be elevating their condition.

It is also vital that those in poverty are treated with the dignity and respect that will allow them to say, in hindsight, that they gained their self-reliance from their own successful life decisions and hard work, not just through government handouts.  By focusing on proven skills and a success sequence we can confidently clear the path of laudable pursuit for all who are struggling to rise from poverty to prosperity.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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‘Highly resolved’: More than just giving it a try

When we honor those who have paid the ultimate price we rightly reference the words of Abraham Lincoln, that “they gave the last full measure of devotion.” We often miss, however, Lincoln’s powerful and immediate pivot to the future, to us – “that we here highly resolve.” He recognized that that those we honor have already done their part and passed their test. Lincoln knew the real question was whether each of us would be highly resolved to do our individual duty.

To be highly resolved is not a casual decision but requires complete commitment. Far too many in America are content to “give it a try” or “take a shot at it” without the deep and powerful force of a highly resolved total commitment. Many choose to try, but few commit to do.

A well-known biblical verse says, “Choose ye this day,” but the more powerful translation from Greek is “Commit ye this day.” The difference between a choice and commitment is too big to measure though the results are stunningly apparent. Thus choosing freedom is vastly different from having a highly resolved commitment to freedom.

A wise man who understood the power of a highly resolved total commitment declared, “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth. … That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

This is not a day for hesitancy, drawing back or ineffectiveness. Our country needs highly resolved individuals to stand up and speak out for the principles and policies that have fostered an amazing America. Our state houses and legislatures need bold, committed leaders with stronger backbones than jawbones. Our communities need more men and women of commitment who care about creating a better neighborhood and nation.

Rereading the final section of the Gettysburg Address challenges us to gratefully remember those who gave all, lifts our gaze toward the great task and test before us as a nation and implores us to be highly resolved in our commitment to the future of freedom.

Listen to Lincoln’s final call and question, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson – thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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In the cause of freedom, there are no insignificant acts

It has been said that the gates of history turn on very small hinges, and those hinges turn on the courage, commitment and effort of ordinary but inspired individuals. There are no small parts or players in the cause of freedom. Every person matters; each can make a difference.

Several years ago I had the opportunity, as chief of staff in U.S. Senator Mike Lee’s office, to help a family claim a long-ago-earned and long-sought-for Purple Heart – dating back to World War I. Mr. Encarnarcion Trujillo, like so many of his generation, didn’t fight so his name would appear in the newspaper or be recorded in a history book; he fought so his children could pursue their dreams and write their own histories in a land of opportunity.

Encarnacion Trujillo was part of the Battle of the Argonne Forest, which was fought from late September through November of 1918. The battle is largely a forgotten one, though it was one of the largest in American history. Over 26,000 Americans were killed and 96,000 were injured in the fierce and bloody battle. Mr. Trujillo was wounded in his right shoulder when he was hit by shrapnel. But he stood his ground, far from home and on foreign soil, because he recognized and believed in the principles of freedom his country was standing to defend.

Some might say Mr. Trujillo was just one man among the legions who fought in that battle – but he was indeed one man. I repeat, the gates of history turn on very small hinges, and those hinges turn on the courage, commitment and effort of ordinary but inspired individuals like Mr. Trujillo. He stood with his fellow soldiers who, individually, were young, weak and inexperienced. But united by the cause of freedom, they each did their part – and because they stood – freedom did not falter.

Never underestimate the impact of one person. America is extraordinary, not because of who we are, but because of what we do. The real strength of our nation’s fabric is found in the intertwining and binding actions of the genuine heroes and heroines around us. They are often disguised as everyday citizens performing unheralded, and often unnoticed, acts of kindness and service. The hinges of history turn when a neighbor stops to help a neighbor, when a fifth-grader stands up to a bully for a classmate, when a pastor inspires faith in a troubled soul, when a soldier or first responder steps into harm’s way. Truly it is the small and seemingly insignificant things we can and should do each day that ultimately open the gates to the greatness of our nation.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

For more information and additional resources go to sutherlandinstitute.org.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here