Freedom isn’t enough

by | February 23, 2015

This isn’t political.

I want to assure you of that from the outset because our journey today starts with a man in a concentration camp yearning for freedom.

Actually, let me start with where I was first introduced to that man, one of my greatest heroes.

When I was just a teenager — to my best recollection it would have been in 1992 — I read a book that completely altered the trajectory of my life. I consider it to be among the top five books ever written in the history of the world.

That book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

I read a quote that has stuck with me all these years:

“Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Not long after I read that quote, Dr. Frankl and a small group of individuals, including Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Dr. James Newman, and Kevin Hall (of genshai fame) got together to discuss how to make Viktor’s suggestion a reality.

They formed the Statue of Responsibility Foundation and, in 1997, commissioned world-renowned sculptor Gary Lee Price to design the statue.

I was twenty-one years old at the time, trying to figure out what to do with my life.

Viktor Frankl passed away on September 2 of that same year at the age of ninety-two.

In 2004, a small group of people, including Gary Lee Price and Kevin Hall, flew to Vienna, Austria to meet with Viktor’s widow, Elly, to get her blessing on Gary’s design, which depicts two hands clasped together.

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When she saw the design, Elly could not contain her emotion.

She invited Gary into Viktor’s’ private study. Located in a small niche amongst his thousands of books was a woodcarving of a man reaching upward with his hands outstretched toward heaven, entitled The Suffering Man:

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Elly told Gary how much Viktor cherished this sculpture, which he had discovered shortly after his release from the concentration camps. Viktor, she said, often used it as a metaphor for responsibility, asking the question, “Where is the hand reaching back?”

Elly then said to Gary, “And here you bring me a statue that answers that question.”

Building a 300-foot-tall monument is, to be sure, a monumental task. Over the past ten years the project has remained virtually underground, while the foundations of not only the statue but also a global movement were being laid.

In 2007 I stumbled across the Statue of Responsibility website and remembered reading Viktor’s quote as a teenager.

I immediately called the CEO of the Foundation and asked him how I could get involved. But the timing wasn’t right. The right elements weren’t in place to engage.

In 2014 I was stunned to receive a phone call from Woody Woodward, an advisor to the Foundation.

“Have you ever heard of the Statue of Responsibility?” he asked me.

“Absolutely,” I said. I recounted my history with the concept and project, including reading Viktor’s book as a teenager.

Woody asked me to write a manifesto for the project, similar to Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus, which sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

I got chills.

I dropped everything for the next week and poured my heart and soul into the manifesto, enthralled with the stars that had aligned, thrilled and humbled beyond words to honor my hero and to play a role in the world-changing project.

I emerged from my reverie with this manifesto:

United in Freedom

“To this land of liberty flocked the ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Today I breathe free and live abundantly because of their blood, sweat, and tears.

“My brothers, my sisters who have gone before: Never will I forget the monumental price you paid for my freedom. As I joyfully exercise my rights, I will humbly remember my responsibility to mankind.

“My brothers, my sisters with whom I share this consecrated land: As the hands of our ancestors reach down through the ages to uphold you and me, so too do I extend my hand to you. As great sacrifice was required by our forebears, loving service is required of me.

“My brothers, my sisters yet unborn: Ever will I remember that my choices today bear consequences for you tomorrow. May my hand reaching across generations be not oppressive, but uplifting.

“For the lamp of liberty is fueled by responsibility, and our destiny is not individual, but communal. As that is our legacy of the past, so shall it be our hope in the future…”

It was a magical experience reading the manifesto in Gary Lee Price’s studio:

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I know of no other principle that will have a greater impact on an individual’s life and on the health of a nation than unconditional personal responsibility. I know of no problem that cannot be solved by personal responsibility.

Responsibility is our ability to respond through conscious choice — not merely react — to events and circumstances, however horrendous.

Responsibility is the duty we share to voluntarily serve and uplift one another.

Responsibility is the core foundation of and the one great key to all human progress.

We don’t need more freedom. What we need is more responsibility.

What Viktor Frankl discovered in a concentration camp is now becoming a global movement.

I invite you to join that movement by asking yourself daily: What is my responsibility?

The Statue of Responsibility Manifesto

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