John Galt may be the man who stopped the motor of the world, but Craig Root is the man who stopped traffic…on I-95, anyway.
In August of 2009, our family made a move from Rhode Island to Florida. Shortly before crossing from Georgia into Florida, along I-95, we drove past a billboard that stuck out, if only for a brief moment, because it bore the single phrase “Who is John Galt?” in large white letters against a dark background. Now, I have to admit that I did not know, at that time, the origin of the bizarre question, hung so flagrantly in midair against the dark background of the nighttime sky and the trees enveloped within it. So, I wondered for a moment about the obscurity of it before shaking myself back to reality and the rest of the long drive that lay before me. It wouldn’t be long, however, before I would find my answer.
That Christmas, I received a copy of Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. I had been spending a lot of time on the internet and everywhere I went the web was abuzz about what a great book it was. I had attempted to read The Fountainhead my senior year in high school, for a scholarship contest to which I wanted to apply, but didn’t make it very far before more interesting (read: frivolous and fun) endeavors caught my attention. (I never made it past the first chapter.) Needless to say, I was significantly more successful in this attempt and reaped the rewards of not only being able to now take part in conversations which were previously reserved for that exclusive crowd “in the know,” but also of having read one of the greatest works ever written. Ayn Rand was able to express things I had known and felt my entire life, but was never quite able to put into words…that man’s greatest virtue is not sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice alone, but rather discipline, drive, and dedication to fulfill one’s own needs and desires. It’s not giving to someone else that matters, but rather doing for yourself without taking advantage of others. I know, at first glance, that these ideas seem foreign and perhaps even a little outrageous. This was especially true when they were first written. At its heart, however, above all, it’s about personal responsibility. And that’s something I think everyone can agree is important.
So, I’ve taken this same route many times since then. Every time, I have forgotten about the billboard since my last trip and it jumps out at me as a pleasant surprise and makes me chuckle. By the time it occurs to me to take a picture, we’ve driven past and it remains only a memory, to be forgotten again by our next journey northward. I make a mental note, of course, to have my camera ready on my next trip. Each time, I reassure myself “next time…next time.” I spotted the billboard once again (almost two years later), still spreading its mysterious, yet meaningful, message to the world, on the drive home from Beaufort, South Carolina a few weeks ago. This time I became bound and determined, picture or not, to find out something more about this iconic landmark.
It didn’t take me long, via web search, to unearth a multitude of articles, blogs and pictures (yay!!!) about this curious sight. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person to wonder about the billboard’s origins. Go figure! Though one website seemed to think it was an advertisement for a realtor in Marietta, GA, I had to question the effectiveness of an ad that listed absolutely no contact information and, when searched on the internet, would provide hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of other search results before getting to your business page. Naturally, there were plenty of other sites that knew the true meaning of the billboard. Kay B Day, at The US Report, was fortunate enough to pose the question of who had posted the billboard and receive an answer. The guilty party? Craig Root, owner of Vista Outdoor Advertising and the mysterious billboard, takes the prize. Personally, I’m tickled by the idea that entrepreneurs and small business owners will play such a pivotal role in helping to wake up our society and return it to the ideals that made it so great. A big “Thank You” goes out to Craig Root for taking the initiative and utilizing the resources at his disposal to make a difference for everyone, himself especially.
For those who are not familiar with the novel, characters use the expression “Who is John Galt?” as a means to say “Why ask silly questions that can’t be answered?” John Galt is a legend, a folktale… “a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world — and did.” Upon closer examination, however, a deeper meaning emerges. Rand’s heroes realize that John Galt is the ideal in all of them, the person they all strive to be…their hero. So, in asking the famous question now, it really means…
Who is going to take charge? Who is going to take responsibility? Who is going to inspire? Who is going to lead?
Why not you? After all, there’s a bit of John Galt in each of us.