Initiative means acting independently and energetically, especially when taking the first steps toward a goal. A society dedicated to self-government requires that individuals take the initiative to ensure the happiness of society. Citizens have many opportunities for individual efficacy in society. They can take initiative every day by completing their home, school, and career responsibilities without being reminded, by starting their own businesses, joining a political party, or lobbying for new laws.
Thomas Paine celebrated the initiative of the Founders when he wrote in Common Sense, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”Frederick Douglass remarked that his own initiative made the difference in gaining his freedom, “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
The Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, written and ordained by the people, display the initiative of individuals from the Founding Era. Furthermore, many amendments to the Constitution, including the Fifteenth and Nineteenth, were drafted and eventually adopted because of the initiative of individuals and groups in American history.
American individuals who have demonstrated initiative include Samuel Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida B. Wells.