Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, curators at the U.S. National Archives quietly removed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution from public display.
Under the supervision of armed guards, they carefully packed the precious documents in a specially designed protective container. They secured this box with padlocks, and then sealed it with lead.
Next, they placed this box within an even larger container. In all, they used over 150 pounds of protective equipment to safeguarded these few pieces of paper.
From the Archives, a team of Secret Service agents escorted the documents to Union Station, and then guarded them for the next two days it as they traveled by rail all the way to Kentucky. When the precious cargo arrived in Louisville, a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division joined the agents and escorted it the rest of the way to Fort Knox.
For the duration of World War II, the documents remained safely protected in the nation’s most secure facility, along with much of the U.S. gold bullion reserve.
Why such effort over just a few old pieces of paper?
The Takeaway – The Value of the Vision
Obviously, it’s not the paper itself, but the ideas and ideals written on them.
The words they contain represent who the United States is, what it aspires to be, and how it functions. In essence they are the vision statement, cornerstone values, and operating principles of an entire nation.
Would America cease to function if we were to lose these pieces of paper? Of course not. But the fact of their existence, and the effort taken to safeguard them is symbolic of their importance to our identity.
Given all this, here are a few questions worth asking for whatever team, organization, or group we lead:
- What is our vision statement?
- What are our cornerstone values?
- How do we ensure our team understands and lives by them daily?
- How are we cherishing and safeguarding them?
The actions of the curators highlight the importance of these foundational documents. To our nation, the value of the vision is the same as the value of gold.
If we hope to succeed with our own teams, we would do well to emulate the care given to safeguard our vision and values, and keep them alive.
And if we haven’t written them out yet, maybe it’s time to gather the team, dip our quill into the ink well, and get started.