Ed Talk: Re-Birth of a Nation

birth of our nationA few days ago I joined as usual with family and friends in celebrating the birth of our nation.  Yet this year it felt very different.

I am accustomed to hearing a unified national chorus celebrating in unison, in a harmonious display of American pride. This year in place of the unified chorus I couldn’t help hearing two distinct voices — not celebrating, but rather lamenting.  Two echoes of Langston Hughes’ competing lyrics about America.

Voice 1: “Let America be America again”

Voice 2: “America never was America to me.”

One voice longing for the resurrection of a nostalgic, more rewarding past. The other wishing the past a swift farewell and seeking the dawn of an America they never knew, but believe is still theirs to claim.  One voice speaks of losing their grasp on the American Dream while the other speaks of gaining it.

[Find out your American Dream Score, developed by the Ford Foundation in partnership with Moving Up]

There is a third voice of course, to my ear growing ever less resonant, even as it gets louder and louder. It is the voice of those living the American Dream who seek to convince us everything is fine and not to worry — too much. It beseeches us to stay the course, weather the storm, and whatever we do, don’t rock the boat.  This voice seeks to quail the voices of the discontented, or a least distract them from acting on their justifiable impatience.

No more.  Voice 1 and Voice 2 agree: the boat has a serious leak, and it is already listing hard.  We cannot allow it to sink.  We have come too far.  We have paid our dues. There are promises to be kept.  We must face our discord and find a way to repair it.

America is facing a moment of truth — again.  The American Dream, built upon the American mythology of rugged individualism, meritocracy and equality for all, has served its purpose for generations by sustaining hope for a better life.  But its claims have become unmistakably false in light of our current American reality of persistent inequality, extraordinary concentration of wealth and privilege, and the dysfunction and decline of institutions entrusted with our well-being.

Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently articulates what we both celebrate and lament:

When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of  happiness.  It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note.

Speaking as if today on behalf of all Americans feeling disenfranchised, King goes on to say:

We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.  So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Too many Americans fear that they have been given a bad check.  And, if our recent elections are any indication, they are “stress testing” with a fierce sense of urgency the solvency of those institutions and traditions upon which we have relied to provide us with “sufficient funds” to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

That’s the bad news.  Here’s the good news.

We are in the midst of a new American Revolution.  Before our eyes we are seeing the re-birth of our nation.  And we have an extraordinary opportunity to make America better — again.

Change is happening all around us, but we need to look at things differently to see the really important shifts.  For example, if you focus on the chaos and only what the pundits tell us, you’ll miss the emergence of an exciting nation-changing phenomenon: the new American Patriot.  They are those committed to ensuring that the great vaults of American opportunity remain full, accessible and equitably shared by all — and their numbers are growing every day.

They are just not who you think they might be.

If you look carefully and ask the right questions, you will see them among some of your co-workers, neighbors, your neighbor’s children and your own.  You will see them among seniors who want a better life for their grandchildren, and millennials who want their lives to mean more than their parents’ have.  And they are taking steps to make it so, through acts of courage, large and small.

You can also see them among the 300 recent attendees of the Senior Multicultural Leaders Conference organized by Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management, and extraordinary woman of color at Morgan Stanley.  Joining her there was a multicultural array of senior executives from across the country addressing our national imperative: a successful transformation into the world’s leading multicultural nation within the next generation.

You can see them among the 500 attendees from 13 countries at the GSG Global Impact Summit who have come together to lead the way to bring impact investing to a tipping point by 2020.  Among its leaders are Darren Walker, Jean Case, Nancy Pfund, Jan Piercy and Jackie Vanderbrug, to name only a few. They are re-thinking how values, justice and equity belong in the investment equation, and reshaping the way we conceptualize the role of money and the uses of wealth in a truly great 21st century society.

We at Reinventure are proudly among the new Patriots who are on the leading edge of this growing movement to re-invent investing.  Through our fund we will work every day to pursue opportunities that fulfill America’s promise of equitable access to investment capital, particularly for women founders and founders of color.  Every day we will demonstrate, as in the past,* that marrying non-concessionary returns and intentional impact is good for investors, as well as a revolutionary stride toward making our nation more equitable, just, resilient and prosperous.

Join us.  Working together, we can midwife the re-birth of a great nation.

* While there’s no such thing as a guarantee in investing and no one can reliably predict the future, Ed’s record at UNC Ventures provides direct evidence that it is indeed possible to consistently invest for both financial returns and social value creation. To learn more, please contact us.

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