From the Mouth of a Babe: ‘Time to Act Grown-up, America’

By J.F. McKenna

Baby New Year is as politically precocious as he is technically savvy. Only yesterday he issued this text message:“Arrived fine. Took time to scope the general layout. Are you kidding? Who’s trashing ‘the course of human events’ now? Your unalienable rights don’t come across as being as self-evident as you may think.”

Myself, I’ve always been impressed with tots who text, especially kids who reference The Declaration of Independence in sure-handed fashion. I replied to the youngster almost immediately and requested a meeting, in order to have him elaborate on his 34-word critique. To accommodate what I considered an awfully ambitious schedule for a newborn, I agreed to meet him at a coffee shop on Rt. 22 in western Pennsylvania. I ordered my usual, Earl Grey. Still a kid in many ways, BNY grabbed himself a potentially diaper-filling fruit smoothie.

How, I asked, is someone so new to the scene burdened with such a world-weary attitude?

“Look here,” BNY said, struggling mightily with the straw in his extra-large beverage. “There’s more under this top hat than just an adorable curl. I had a lot of time on my hands before arriving, so I booked up on what I was getting myself into. Thank goodness for wi-fi. I took in the better content sites, the sharper blogs, WSJ and The Economist online…yes, even your site. And I didn’t stop there. I availed myself of sites with original-source material. The Founding Fathers and all their inspirations as well.

“You know what I concluded?” BNY went on. “This is going to be a watershed year for you folks in the reported land of the free. All the palaver about fiscal cliffs and entitlements and political correctness is just that—palaver. Like the French say, it’s powder in the eyes. To Hell with it all! When that lady asked old Bennie Franklin what he and his pals had given the country at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he replied, ‘A nation, if you can keep it.’ His answer still stands. Maybe more so. Time for a back-to-basics class for the whole damn country.”

The woman at the adjoining table caught BNY’s expletives and apparently nothing else: she shot the little fellow a disapproving glance, sent over an extra one for me, and seemed to be on the verge of delivering a lecture about coffee-shop decorum. To his credit, the pint-sized social critic was having none of it. He issued his own steely-eyed glare in her direction, and she immediately returned her focus to an unappetizing plate of tofu.

That brief social exchange couldn’t slow my companion’s tutorial. “When I say back to basics, here’s what I mean,” BNY explained. “Despite all the malarkey passed off by sophomoric analysts and pseudo-scholars, what I learned during uterine studies is that America’s strength lies in its sense of entrepreneurship. You know, a nation of farmers, manufacturers, and so on. Build it and they will come, right? If you don’t make stuff, nobody’s going to show up at all. And those already here are going to leave. So it’s all about the unfettered allegiance to make it, mine it, and grow it. The rest is supporting cast.”

The novice smoothie patron underscored his well-considered declaration with a most adult burp.

“Which bring us to government,” BNY said. “I’m no gray head, obviously. But I’ve already figured out that government doesn’t make anything. That goes for City Hall or the halls of Congress. To hear what’s being said on that overhead TV—yeah, that one near the pastry case with the yummy-looking cakes—you’d swear that Obama, Boehner, and Reid are central elements in the periodic table itself rather than elected representatives. Excuse me for saying so—that’s rather childish thinking.

“I came across something of Peter Drucker’s not long ago,” the tyke said. “I know you’re a fan of Drucker’s management writing. In fact, you’ve quoted him so frequently that I assume you send a little something to his estate every so often, right? Anyway, Drucker wrote a dozen years ago that ‘we can say, with near certainty, the challenges we face in the next economy are management challenges that have to be tackled by individuals. Government will be able to help or hinder. But the tasks themselves are not tasks governments can perform. They can only be performed through individual organizations—both business enterprises and nongovernmental nonprofit organizations—and by individuals.’

“Drucker also warned that government will not become less pervasive and powerful, let alone less expensive,” BNY added. “Looks like that’s where I’ve landed.”

“Looks like,” I agreed.

Baby New Year sucked down the last of his smoothie before offering some parting comments. “The Declaration of Independence is great stuff, and should be regular bedtime reading around here,” he said. “Men endowed with certain unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It also speaks of governments ‘deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ As I texted, the rights aren’t as self-evident as you think. Maybe Bennie Franklin was onto something. Maybe you guys just don’t care anymore.”

Before I could mount even a weak defense, the kid jumped off his chair.

“Drinks are on you,” he said. “Stop me if you’ve heard this before: I left my wallet in my other diaper. Seriously, I really got to go.”

As he headed double-quick toward the rest room, he turned and yelled: “At least try to do something before I’m an old man, eh.”

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, communications consultant and former editor of the national manufacturing magazine Tooling & Production. He has chased stories throughout the country and as far away as Japan, Israel and that most exotic of financial lands, Wall Street. Reach him at or through his LinkedIn profile: Jos. F. McKenna.



  1. Back to Basics — to the Constitution — AMEN! Nice article, wish more would pick it up, read it, and think for themselves.

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