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Perspective: The Compact

Artist: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Imagine taking a cross-ocean trip of over 3,000 miles in a small, well-worn ship. The seas are not with you, so you will arrive dangerously late. Additionally, your arrival will not be at your intended destination, but one several hundred miles away. Once at your new destination, your provisions will be scant at best and shelter wholly inadequate. On top of all of this, there are deep divisions within the adults in your travelling party. Overall, your chances for survival are slim.

However, some cooler heads within your group prevail, and push for short agreement to quell the conflict and preserve unity in the midst of the frayed nerves, anger and fear. The agreement binds the signers to a common consent and abide by any laws and regulations that would later be established for the general good of the colony.

I’m sure many of you have deduced that this series of events really happened. And they did. The Mayflower Compact was signed on November 20, 1620 just offshore from Plymouth, Massachusetts. But even with that agreement, 45 of the 102 people aboard the Mayflower would be dead by the following spring. However, without that compact, the mortality rate would have been much, much worse.

Those adults on the Mayflower faced a hard reality 401 years ago: it was either unite or perish. And here we are, 401 years later facing the same kind of challenge, and an existential one at that. And I can’t help but think we have truly met the enemy, and they are us.

I’m Andrew Nelson and that’s my Perspective.

Andrew Nelson has been involved in public education in northern Illinois for more than three decades.