This is a note--a love note, of sorts--to the Postal Service.
Let’s travel back to the 90s, small town USA. Bombs bursting in the desert air, on the television. Our best and bravest, defending freedom in real time. Do you remember? Together, hands over our hearts, we pledged allegiance to the Republic, to the Stars and Stripes, singing I’m Proud to Be An American at the top of our lungs, meaning every single word and honoring those risking it all. I know you know it by heart, too. My heart still swells when I hear that song.
It also swells every time I open a stamped letter. 50 cents of sweet, sweet freedom. Hear me out.
First, a little civics: in the USA, the majority *does not* rule. In pure democracies, the majority can impose its will more readily and immediately on the minority. But we have instead a Democratic Republic. Change is hard. Imposing more rules is hard. That’s a good thing.
The essentials: basic human rights for all citizens, the freedom of those citizens to move freely, and the freedom of those same citizens to communicate freely with one another. This last one is really important.
Free speech isn’t just talking. To truly have Freedom of Speech, communication must not be restricted. Free communication can take on many forms - from access to social media to unrestricted ability to make phone calls, from secure package transport to permission to obnoxiously cheer in public for our favorite sports teams. Back when America was formed, a lot of this communication of the day’s or week’s events happened in newspapers.
But the newspapers were printed in one place, and had to get to the homes of people reading them. Walking from town to town or simply meeting at the local tavern to know what was going on got old real quick. Folks in New York needed a way to reliably and safely communicate with people in Virginia; heck, people in New York needed a reliable way to communicate with people in different parts of New York. So Ben Franklin laid some groundwork, establishing efficient, consistent routes and practices to enable fast, accurate transport of letters and newspapers.
But early mail sent on these routes was subject to frequent search, with severe consequence to those who forgot to use the “u” in labo(u)r. Basically, the Crown restricted the flow of information and ideas to maintain control. Ben himself was fired for being a bit too patriotic (to be fair, this suspicion eventually was more than confirmed).
Ben’s business partner William Goddard was personally affected, as he published a newspaper that the Crown refused to carry. Being an entrepreneur, he created an alternate service, the “Constitutional Post”. This service, and its principles, was the foundation of the USPS.
The Constitutional Post recruited people with great integrity. Mail traveled secure under lock and key of these carriers sworn to the sanctity of the precious cargo they carried from place to place. Letters and news arrived uncorrupted.
This communication system was essential to keeping citizens apprised of the true events of the battle for Independence, ensuring free speech away from governmental interference. No longer could dictatorial regimes control the flow of information as they have (and even continue to do) throughout the darker parts of our world.
As the US rapidly expanded westward, the US Postal Service only became more important. The need for communication led to early road formation and transportation options. The news of the day and private, long distance correspondence increasingly affected our decisions, our businesses, our very livelihood, as the distances grew greater.
Knowing our loved ones were safe in battle or transit, forming enduring friendships across mountains and rivers. No matter the challenge, the sanctity, privacy, and integrity of the mail system has endured, knowing that without it, the freedom to communicate -- and freedom itself -- would be at risk.
This issue hits close to home for my business partner, Justin Li. Justin's family is originally from China where, as Christian Capitalists, educated in both the United Kingdom and the United States, they were enemies of the state during the Cultural Revolution. They fled China, literally running for their lives. Justin's Great Aunt, Nien Cheng, wrote a book about her experiences during this troubling time in China's history called "Life and Death in Shanghai." Freedom of Speech isn't just a neat concept for Justin - it is literally a matter of life and death for his family.
Next time you begin to open a letter, take a look at the flag waving proudly on the stamp, and take a moment. Think about how the last person who saw the contents was the person who affixed the stamp, the person who wanted to communicate directly, and privately, with you - and salute the 350,000 great folks who make that happen, giving you free delivery most every day, every address, in the greatest country on Earth.
About Qore Performance
At Qore Performance, we develop technologies that remove environmental constraints to human performance. To put it simply, when it’s cold outside, we keep people warmer. When it’s hot outside, we keep people colder. Our products allow your body to work smarter, protecting your health and improving efficiency. The HiVis StayFrosty Vest, which uses water to cool/warm and hydrate the user, is now in use by mail carriers throughout the country, lessening the physical burdens of the job.