Friday, November 1, 2013

unCon 2013 Post: JFK’s Spirit Alive and Well at the MassTLC unConference

November 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy—a sad occasion for Massachusetts and for all who admired his example of vigor, intelligence and dedication to the greater good.

While President Kennedy is not here to see it, I believe he’d be proud of how Massachusetts has evolved into a world-class beacon for innovation and entrepreneurship by embracing and adapting enduring traditions, while setting a course for the new century.

Attending the 2013 MassTLC unConference last week, it struck me that JFK would have been impressed by the creative thoughts and ideas, diversity, optimism and generosity shown by the gathering’s 800+ enthusiastic attendees.

As a native Californian and Silicon Valley refugee who first came Boston for a college education and who’s lived in Massachusetts for 30+ years, MassTLC’s exceptionally excellent #unCon reassured me more than ever that …

Massachusetts is the best place in the world in which to live and work-- to start, run, and grow a technology business.

Interestingly, the current and future state of Massachusetts was presaged in how Kennedy perceived our Commonwealth a half-century ago.

In his oft-quoted 1961 “City Upon a Hill” speech, then-Senator and President-Elect John Kennedy spoke eloquently about the state he called home, evoking the memory of John Winthrop and other courageous pilgrims who came to Massachusetts in 1630 in search of freedom and opportunity.

Kennedy commented “we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken” by Massachusetts’ first migrants and quoted Winthrop’s exhortation to his fellow Massachusetts residents: "We must always consider, that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us."
Kennedy’s eloquence stands the test of time, with words that ring as true today as when he spoke them some five decades past.

Consider these excerpts from his address:

“The enduring qualities of Massachusetts—the common threads woven by the Pilgrim and the Puritan, the fisherman and the farmer, the Yankee and the immigrant…. are an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, and my hopes for the future.”
“Courage—judgment—integrity—dedication these are the historic qualities of the Bay Colony and the Bay State.”

For what Pericles said to the Athenians has long been true of this commonwealth: "We do not imitate—for we are a model to others."

From Plymouth Rock to Kennedy’s New Frontier; and from the industrial revolution born in the mills of Lowell and Waltham to the thousands of 21st century knowledge workers who now contribute to what the Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner describes as Massachusetts’ “Innovation Economy”-- our Commonwealth truly does set a good example for others around the world to follow.

And while Big Papi’s “F&$@g” eloquence doesn’t compare to Kennedy’s, our world champion Red Sox deserve to be included in Wikipedia definitions for teamwork, endurance and spirit.  Similarly those of us who work in the local tech sector would do well to imitate the New England Patriots’ example of guts, hard work and collaboration.

Two other JFK quotes fit this theme and point us where we need to go:

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

Massachusetts: Together, let’s keep making it happen!

Patrick Rafter
Twitter: @prafter

Listen to JFK’s City on a Hill Speech at:

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