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Having That Extra Something

Last week Mary Kay and I attended one of our favorite events of the year—going to Capitol Hill with about 500 other people in franchising and talking with our congressmen and senators about small business and franchising.

Before heading there, we started our trip by making a stop in Boston, a city full of history and memories of leaders who have shaped our country.

I didn’t know much about Boston, having never spent time there. I started to “get it” when we walked along Boston’s Freedom Trail. In a span of just a few hours, we walked by Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, attended a service at the King’s Chapel in a church that was completed in 1754, walked through the Granary cemetery where John Adams, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin’s parents are all buried, and walked by Boston Latin School—the oldest public school in America, founded in 1635.

Ben Franklin is Boston Latin School’s most popular drop out. His formal education ended at age 10, but he was a voracious reader. He moved to Philadelphia at age 17. Many remember him as the person who flew the kite in the lightning storm. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin Stove, the glass armonica (not harmonica), the urinary catheter and swim fins, which he invented at age 11.

Many of us remember Paul Revere from the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” I didn’t realize that he was in his 40s when he sent someone up to the Old North Church with two lanterns with directions to only put one lantern up if the British were attacking the colonists by land, and two lanterns up if they were coming up the Charles River. Revere was a very prosperous silversmith in Boston. At the age of 66, he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels.

Of course, a trip to Boston isn’t complete without going to Fenway for a game and stopping by Cheers. We did both before heading to Washington D.C. – and I didn’t see Norm at either place!

Every time I walk by the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court, I realize the powerful leadership required to get us where we are today. I think about how our laws, our taxes, and our opportunities for business are hammered out in those halls. As businesspeople, we can hope and pray congressmen and senators are focused on small business and not only on big business and the pressure that lobbyists provide—or we can do something about it.

Until I started participating in this lobbying event 15 years ago, I never gave thought to meeting with local and federal representatives. We are what they need—we are voters. I found out this year that they are just as interested in sharing with us what they are doing about tax legislation as they are in gathering information from us.

We met with Texas Senator Cornyn and Texas Congressman Flores. Senator Ted Cruz was delivering a speech in the Capitol and had us meet with his Deputy Chief of Staff. In my trip to the congressman/senator’s offices years before, I often met with staff members. Many look like they are still juniors in college.

Actually, these are the people that do the research for our legislators in virtually every phase of government and make subsequent recommendations for the legislators. They understand the intricacies of each bill and make recommendations. I looked up the “Congressional Staff” for both Texas senators. I was very surprised to find the number of staffers exceeded 65—for both senators.

My message this week: Regardless of how dysfunctional you think Washington D.C. is—America is moving forward. It started with people like Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin and continues to this day. Regardless of which party you support, know this is still the greatest country in the world that offers the greatest opportunities.

We need, however, to be citizen leaders and participate in the process. Reach out to your representatives today and encourage them to support local businesses!

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