Most of the extraordinary moments in human history, and most definitely in American history, began not just as improbabilities but as almost certain impossibilities. From the first settlements in North America to the early battles of the revolution, from electricity to the iPhone, from moments of devastating defeat to the pinnacles of success, America has followed a now familiar path from impossible to improbable to absolutely achievable.
Our finest hours as a nation have not come about when things were certain and settled. The most important breakthroughs and break-withs, triumphs and transformations occur within the parentheses of a crazy idea.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the foundation of a new nation, conceived in liberty and committed to the principle that all men are created equal, was laid.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, a civil war, and even world wars, were waged, including tide-turning battles at Gettysburg and the beaches of Normandy, securing freedom for millions.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, game-changing innovations like light bulbs, steam engines, automobiles and countless entrepreneurial endeavors have been launched.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, Rosa Parks took a seat, Martin Luther King Jr. took a stand and Jackie Robinson broke the barrier on America’s long and winding road to live up to its ideals.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the Wright Brothers took flight that eventually propelled small steps into giant leaps for mankind.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, women suffragettes plowed the ground that ultimately provided the right to vote to women and the possibility for Utah’s Martha Hughes Cannon to be elected as the country’s first female state senator.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, visionary pioneers stood on a peak looking over the Salt Lake valley in 1847 and declared the barren land would one day become a crossroads to the world.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, two college students, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, dropped out of school to start a business that transformed the world.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, then doctor Russell M. Nelson decided, against the advice of experts, to touch and ultimately heal human hearts.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, The Other Side Academy began breaking the cycle of broken lives and the revolving door of the criminal justice system — not with prison doors and guards with guns, but by arming former criminals with integrity, accountability, elevating values and empowering life skills.
Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forged a friendship and partnership to take the principles of self-reliance to individuals and families in the inner city.
And every day, within the parentheses of a crazy idea, in the ultimate entrepreneurial and hope-filled act, a couple comes together to start a marriage and begin a family.
On Wednesday, I met an Uber driver who was living the American dream within the parentheses of a crazy idea. Deseret News editor Doug Wilks and I had just arrived in Washington, D.C., and secured an Uber to take us to our hotel. Our driver jumped out of the car with a big smile and bulging muscles. He clearly was not a typical rideshare driver. When he popped open the trunk for our luggage I noticed there was military camouflaged gear spilling out of a gym bag in the back. I commented that it appeared he was working after he had already worked a full day in a uniform.
In the car we discovered that our driver worked at the Pentagon as a medic by day. He said his parents were from Nigeria but he had been born in the United States and was a proud citizen. I asked why he was driving an Uber. He shared that his younger brother was not an American citizen but was able to come over as student, and he used the driving money to pay for his brother’s education. He positively declared it was a good investment in the future. (Our driver then joked that he regularly tells his little brother that if he ever gets a C grade in a class to not even bother calling big brother’s cell phone.)
We asked what it was like to be at the Pentagon on the anniversary of 9/11. A broad smile came to his face and he said, “It was very special.” With great excitement he opened his glove compartment and pulled out a camouflaged hat. He showed that it had been signed by President Trump and Melania Trump. He then pulled up a picture of himself and the president on his cell phone.
He said, “I don’t always agree with the president. But I am a proud American. Before I started at the Pentagon I raised my right hand and promised I would defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, and the president, of either party, is my commander-in-chief.”
This young man, a citizen of the United States, was living a dream and creating a most extraordinary history clearly within the parentheses of a crazy idea.
More than America is the land of opportunity it is the land of the impossible dream. Crazy ideas, like those of our Uber driver, don’t become reality through passive daydreaming. Such dreams demand real, cleareyed, determined work.
I love the dreamers who sacrifice, struggle and strive between the parentheses of a crazy idea with their eyes wide open. T.E. Lawrence captured it this way:
All men (and women) dream, but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds
Awake to find it was vanity,
But the dreamers of the day are dangerous…,
That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.
I am most thankful for the inspired and inspiring “dreamers of the day” who show what is required to make the improbable — and seemingly impossible — achievable. I am grateful for a dad who taught me that a life filled with meaning and impact happens within the parentheses. I am in awe of friends, heroes and heroines who courageously step into the parentheses, often on nothing more than a wing and a prayer, armed with nothing more than faith and a desire to make a difference. We should all be thankful every day that we live within the parentheses of a crazy idea called America.