A CALL TO ACTION FOR 2004 (AND BEYOND)
Read This Out Loud:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal
station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should
declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Did It Feel Reading These Words Out Loud?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute
new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing
its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect
their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience
hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which
they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,
it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and
to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is
now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems
of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain, George
III, is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in
direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary
for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing
importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should
be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with
manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent
to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their
offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of
Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to
the Civil power.
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America,
in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the
world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the
Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent
States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,
and that all political connection between them and the State of Great
Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;
and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy
War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to
do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our
Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor 
The establishment of America was a creative act. The Declaration of
Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams,
Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston between June 11 and June 28, 1776,
was a profoundly innovative document that helped spark the public’s
imagination and gave life to a revolutionary idea.
Are You a Creative Worker?
of the Declaration of Independence had their homes destroyed, four were
taken captive, and one spent the winter of 1776 in the woods, pursued
by British soldiers who had burned his home. Many of the other signers
suffered direct, personal consequences for their support of American
liberty and independence. 
Speaking and listening to these stirring words strikes a primal chord
– perhaps because we’ve heard some of them so many time
– perhaps because they were designed to be read out loud and savored
by an audience used to hearing stories and public oratory.
The public readings of the Declaration across the 13 colonies in 1776
were kinds of civic performances that helped turn these colonies into
the United States of America in the minds of the listeners.
I believe that creativity and the passion to pursue the dreams released
by one’s creativity lie at the heart of America’s success
as a nation and as a people. Our ability to invent new ideas, things,
and ways of relating to one-another, has been the engine that created
our country and continues to drive our economic and spiritual well-being.
Collectively, our creative efforts have contributed to the global economy
– our creative industries are providing the world with new products,
entertainment and scientific advancement. America’s creative workers
– artists, cultural workers, writers, software developers, inventors,
change agents, community organizers and others who live to create new
visions, products and solutions add immeasurable value to American life.
Are creative workers a new class of citizens? What do creative workers
have in common? How do creative workers engage in civic life?
Are you now making a living primarily by exercising your creativity,
by creating something new and useful – products or services –
and then distributing it? If you’re in school, do you aspire to
this sort of profession?
Do you believe your success will depend on how good you will be in creating
new ideas and figuring out how to take them to market?
Ask yourself… Which would you rather have – Job A, with
a very good salary, but little chance to be creative or, Job B, with
an uncertain or not-so-great salary—one that might pay well, but
in which you had constant opportunities to be creative?
Is being creative an important aspect of your self-identity?
If you would rather have Job B, then you’re probably a member
of the Creative Class.
Richard Florida, in his 2002 book, “The Rise of the Creative Class
and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday
Life,” says 38 million people work in a group of industries which
has been called the Creative Economy.
Florida places ten categories from the Department of Labor’s Standard
Occupational Classification (SOC) system into the Creative Class. He
breaks the Creative Class into two broad categories: 
& Social Sciences
Training & Library professionals
Entertainment, Sports & Media
is the Creative Economy?
& Financial Operations
Practitioners & Tech Operations
Sales & Sales Operations
By Florida’s reckoning, there are 15 million Super-Creatives,
or about 12 percent of the U.S. workforce. He calculates there are some
23.3 million Creative Professionals, or about 18 percent of the workforce.
All together, the Creative Class consists of some 38.3 million Americans,
roughly 30 percent of the total workforce. 
John Howkins, a British author and television producer has consulted
to over thirty governments on matters of cultural policy. His
2001 book, “The Creative Economy – How People Make Money
From Ideas,” estimates that creativity-based industries produced
some $960 billion in revenue in America in 1999.  He lists
the components of the Creative Economy as:
there a set of shared values across the Creative Class?
- Performing Arts
- Research & Development
- Toys & Games
- TV & Radio
- Video Games
This is the economic sector where the most value will be created and
the highest-paying jobs will be. The creative economy is projected
to grow by a 4.8 percent compound annual growth rate through 2007. 
Creativity is also a key to the nonprofit arena – where people
who have visions of a better world act to create new organizations and
programs to change society.
is the Relationship Between Creative Work and Policy?
In the mid-1990’s, I was a volunteer for two years in a metropolitan-wide
citizen organizing effort for Chicago. It was led by staff from
the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). The IAF was founded by Saul Alinsky
over 50 years ago. The IAF helps create large, regional organizations
whose members are other institutions, such as churches and synagogues,
community organizations and labor unions. This organization of organizations
brings citizens voices and values into the political and civic power
equation. When I took the training that the organizers offered to get
volunteers oriented, I remember the trainer shared some insights about
how the IAF works with citizens to help them acquire the skills and
energy to work together to solve their own problems.
One of the key principles the trainer emphasized was that education
and a certain shared experience is needed by the people leading community
change efforts – “Imagination precedes implementation”
was what he wrote on the board. I was struck by that simple but
What this means, as I have grown to see it is, that in order to change
the world for the better, you first (1) must be aware of conditions
that need changing and (2) you are able to imagine a better situation
– some better picture of the world that you want to see happen.
That attribute of constructive imagination is, I believe, exactly akin
to the visioning that artists and other creative individuals engage
in on a regular basis in order to do their work.
Both creative workers and social change agents have the passion, ability
and energy to see a different, a better, a heightened state and overlay
it over the world as it is. It’s as though they say to themselves.
“I see where we are, I don’t like what I see. I see where
we need to be. Now I’m going to act to bring the world to
align with that vision.” Both artists and change agents
then reach for their respective tools and materials to build that vision.
Donald MacKinnon, at the Institute for Personality Assessment and Research
(IPAR) of the University of California at Berkeley, did extensive research
on personality and motivational characteristics or personal qualities
that contribute to a person’s creative potential.  He
found that creative people are:
2. Independent in thought and action
4. Have a strong sense of destiny
6. Open to experience, both the inner self and the outer world
7. Have strong theoretical and aesthetic interests
Dr. Robert Alan
Black, a creativity consultant and writer, has listed a number of traits
that creative people have.  These include:
From my own experience
and reflection, I’ve compiled my own short list of the shared
characteristics of creative people. They are:
2. not motivated by money
3. sense of destiny
5. tolerant of ambiguity
7. perceive world differently
8. see possibilities
9. question asker
10. can synthesize correctly often intuitively
11. able to fanaticize
19. sense of humor
22. self- knowledgeable
23. specific interests
24. divergent thinker
28. severely critical
31. risk taker
Can you imagine
that a group of people who share these types of traits might hold values
that have some degree of congruence? How might we move in the public
arena if we acted on those values and based public policy on them?
- Seeks and
and open to new ideas and experiences
- Wonders and
muses – asks “Why?” and “Why not?”
- Masters skills
and engages in life-long learning
- Works alone
and in ensembles
Can I Be Involved?
renewable and endless. It exists everywhere and in inexhaustible abundance.
I believe that unleashing creativity will result in continuing prosperity
and self-renewal. Based on this assumption – and standing on
the shared values mentioned above, I turn to a set of statements that
could be used to guide public policy across a wide range of issues.
I don’t know where the next Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix, Jonas
Salk, Jane Addams or Cesar Chavez will come from. Who will be
the next pioneer or innovator whose work will immeasurably enrich
life? We need to think seriously about how to nourish, maximize,
and accelerate creativity in order to create an environment in which
such individuals will emerge and thrive.
Every person has something precious and important to offer community
and our economy. The marketplace of ideas should always open
and welcomes all comers regardless of skin color, sexual orientation,
religious preference, or economic circumstance.
However, you do need to be able to read, write, communicate and be
healthy enough to move about and engage with your fellow citizens.
Poverty, racism, disease and isolation are barriers that keep people
out of the marketplace of ideas. Society can help or hinder
If opportunity and access to resources is restricted to certain people
because of some pre-conceived prejudice, then losing the ideas and
creations these people might generate is the likely outcome.
The United States’ founding documents, if taken seriously and
implemented rigorously, protect from this risk. Elected officials
should take note and honor them.
The President and Congress should provide leadership in maximizing
individual and collective creativity as a national priority.
For example, consider the appointment of a National Director of Creativity
whose job it will be to thoroughly examine the state of American creativity
and recommend to the next President and Congress ways to preserve
and extend this vital national resource. This could be accomplished
in part through recognizing a strong and effective system of public
education as a necessary condition for giving all the basic tools
of a creative person, the ability to read, imagine, and think critically.
An open and tolerant society should be seen as a necessary condition
that allows new thoughts and ways of being to flourish and spread.
Policies based on control, surveillance, and fear are counter productive.
Because all people are creative, though creative in different ways,
the opportunity to make and experience art and cultural content should
be a universal aspect of education and community life. Also
contributing would be:
- Fully funding
- $1 billion
for the National Endowment for the Arts in order to provide direct
support artists and arts organizations
the First Amendment
- Campaign for
100% adult literacy by 2010
- A laptop computer
for every public elementary school teacher and student
- Free high-speed
Internet connections - a digital Commons open to all
- Lifting travel
and immigration restrictions and expanding student, science and
a National Creativity Day to celebrate, create and daydream!
And - most radical
of all - might we ask educators, business leaders and civic leaders
to adopt a Creative mindset that is generative, future-oriented, risk-taking,
nurturing, fair, compassionate and non-authoritarian?
be the cornerstone of a new civic metaphor and a new metric for measuring
and rewarding progress. Let creativity be valued for its essence -
not as an extra but as an essential element of education and commerce.
is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape
it” – Brecht
all members of the Creative Class: it’s time to publicly act on
your private values. Involve yourself in civic life. Join
your Chamber of Commerce, participate in your neighborhood improvement
organization, volunteer at your church – and, most definitely
run for office! Run for school board, city council, county commissioner,
zoning board – some position that’s local and where a newcomer
has a chance to make an impression.
Participate in civic life as a creative person – as an artist,
or programmer or arts administrator, whatever you are -- play up your
creative skills and experience. Creative thinking is needed in
New perspectives and ways of thinking about pressing social issues are
desperately needed. bringing the values associated with creativity into
public service IS refreshing and change-making.
This is your world. If you want to see your values, beliefs, hopes
and dreams reflected back to you from your elected officials and the
policies they enact – if you want to see America flourish as the
most creative nation on the planet, then start using your creativity
to help imagine America for 2004 and beyond!
3. “The Rise
of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure,
Community and Everyday Life,” Richard Florida, Basic Books, 2002,
4. Same, p. 74.
5. “The Creative
Economy – How People Make Money From Ideas,” John Howkins,
Penguin Books, 2001, p. 116.
8. “The Creative
Person,” Michael C. Zich,http://www.buffalostate.edu/centers/creativity/Resources/Reading_Room/Person.doc
Essay written in 1990.
The preceding was adapted from a speech delivered at the Institute for
Community Arts Studies, University of Oregon at Eugene on October 24,
2003. Info: http://aad.uoregon.edu/index.htm.
© October 2003, all rights reserved. You can copy and distribute
this work where no fees are collected with the following citation: Tom
Tresser, Passionate Strategies, www.passionatestrategies.com.