Creativity & Social Change


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I believe there is a strong relationship between creativity, democracy and prosperity. This presentation was given at the final session of "Civics 101" at i c stars, June 2013. Tom Tresser, Instructor,

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Creativity & Social Change

  1. 1. Creativity &Social ChangeTom TresserJune 2013
  2. 2. The Creativity Imperative 2Creativity& AmericanHeritage
  3. 3. The Creativity Imperative 3
  4. 4. The Creativity Imperative 4The Power of Political TheaterThe Tea Act of 1773The Tea Act, passed by Parliament on May 10, 1773, would launch the finalspark to the revolutionary movement in Boston. The act was not intended toraise revenue in the American colonies, and in fact imposed no new taxes. Itwas designed to prop up the East India Company which was flounderingfinancially and burdened with eighteen million pounds of unsold tea. This teawas to be shipped directly to the colonies, and sold at a bargain price. TheTownshend Duties were still in place, however, and the radical leaders inAmerica found reason to believe that this act was a maneuver to buy popularsupport for the taxes already in force. The direct sale of tea, via British agents,would also have undercut the business of local merchants.Colonists in Philadelphia and New York turned the tea ships back to Britain. InCharleston the cargo was left to rot on the docks. In Boston the RoyalGovernor was stubborn & held the ships in port, where the colonists would notallow them to unload. Cargoes of tea filled the harbor, and the British shipscrews were stalled in Boston looking for work and often finding trouble. Thissituation led to the Boston Tea Party.
  5. 5. 5December 16, 1773
  6. 6. The Creativity Imperative 6Account of Tea Party Participant, George HewesIt was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with asmall hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club,after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired toGriffins wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street afterbeing thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, andwho fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct ouroperations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boardingthe three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the divisionto which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew.We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time,which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were onboard the ship appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keysto the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied,and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging.We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea andthrow them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting thechests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard everytea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way,at the same time. We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.[ ]
  7. 7. 7The Power of words…Thomas Paine – 1737 - 1809
  8. 8. The Creativity Imperative 8The Power of words…“We have every opportunity andevery encouragement before us, toform the noblest, purest constitutionon the face of the earth. We have it inour power to begin the world overagain. A situation, similar to thepresent, hath not happened since thedays of Noah until now.The birthday of a new world is athand, and a race of men, perhaps asnumerous as all Europe contains, areto receive their portion of freedomfrom the events of a few months.”Read the full text @
  9. 9. 9The Power of words…Estimates of copies sold range from 150,000 at start ofRevolution to a total sales figure of 500,000 for theduration of the conflict. Since there were about 2.5million people in America in 1776, that would like selling78 million copies of a book in 2010 America !
  10. 10. 10More on Thomas Paine• Watch C-SPAN “American Writers” special @• Full text of his work -• TP National Historical Association -
  11. 11. The Creativity Imperative 11The Invention of America
  12. 12. 12“We hold these truths to beself-evident, that all men arecreated equal, that they areendowed by their Creator withcertain unalienable Rights, thatamong these are Life, Libertyand the pursuit of Happiness.etc. etc.”
  13. 13. 13Tom Crafts reads the Declaration aloud in Boston - July 19, 1776
  14. 14. The Creativity Imperative 14“The bells rang, the privateers fired the fortsand batteries, the cannon were discharged,the platoons followed, and every faceappeared joyful…After dinner the King’sArms were taken down from the StateHouse and every vestige of him from everyplace in which it appeared, and burnt…Thusends royal Authority in this State…and allthe people shall say Amen.”Abigail Adams letter to John describing Tom Crafts, a house painter,reading of the Declaration of Independence aloud on July 19, 1776from small balcony in front of the Massachusetts State House, Boston.
  15. 15. 15U.S.A!U.S.A!U.S.A!U.S.A!
  16. 16. 16The United States was the first nation to be designed intobeing. We were invented. The establishment of theUnited States was an audacious act of creativity. We area creative work. We are a work in progress."The War was no part of the Revolution...It was only an effect andconsequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people,and this was effected...years before a drop of blood was drawn atLexington."- John Adams, 1815 letter to Thomas Jefferson.America, the invented country…
  17. 17. 17What one wordbest describes theAmericanexperience?
  18. 18. 18Creativity is our promise43,000,000 people in U.S. born abroad
  19. 19. 19Creativity is our promise
  20. 20. The Creativity Imperative 20I.I. Rabi won the 1944 Nobel Physics Prize for his work on theManhattan Project.- born in Austria- came to America as infant- father worked making women’s blouses in a sweatshop- Rabi was a brilliant student, became a physicist- leading member of the Manhattan ProjectOn the occasion of the award a journalist asked, What did Rabithink of this great honor? “What do I think? I think that in the oldcountry I would have been a tailor.”- David Halberstam, “Defining a Nation – Our America and the Sources of its Strength,” 2003.
  21. 21. 21From 1906 to 2012 – 320 U.S. citizens havebeen awarded Nobel Prizes.82 were foreign-born(including Isidor Rabi).
  22. 22. The Creativity Imperative 22Tom’s Story
  23. 23. 23Tom’sUnifiedTheoryof CivicCreativity
  24. 24. 24• The establishment of America was adaring act of creativity• Creativity feeds democracy anddemocracy feeds creativity• The freedom to invent yourselfwithout reference to pedigree or statusat birth = Opportunity• Opportunity drives economic gain• Governments can create or removebarriers to creativity & opportunity• Everyone can be a creative citizen!Creativity and our heritage…