When Danielle Duplin used to work in electronics warfare at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, she lived in the North End.
"I'd walk out my door right next to the Old North Church and drive to work thinking, 'I'm basically driving the same route where Paul Revere rode his horse.'"
Now, Duplin works at Fidelity Investments, in a building next door to South Station. "Our office looks out over the place where the Boston Tea Party took place," she says.
With her colleague Sean Belka, Duplin came up with what I think is an excellent phrase to capture the true spirit of Boston: "Revolutionary ideas start here." (It was first used back in July at the inaugural TEDx Boston event as part of a short introductory video.)
"We're blessed to be in this city with deep roots for American democracy -- and the spirit of entrepreneurship," she says.
Boston was the petri dish of the revolution, and in the following century the first use of surgical anesthesia at Mass General, and the century after that the first use of chemotherapy to conquer leukemia. Boston was the business center that spawned the first commercial bank in the country, the modern mutual fund, and the first venture capital firm. The first American newspaper was published here, and now Boston start-ups like GlobalPost are trying to re-imagine journalism for the digital age. The first videogame was developed at MIT in the 1960s, and "Rock Band," the top-selling game of 2008, was developed by two MIT alums. Alexander Graham-Bell placed the first telephone call in Boston in 1876, and in 1971 Cambridge researcher Ray Tomlinson wrote the software that allowed e-mail messages to be sent from one computer to another over the Arpanet, the Internet's predecessor. (It was Tomlinson who selected the @ sign for e-mail addresses.)
Revolutionary ideas seem to be what we've been good at generating, from the 18th century to the 21st. Which is why the phrase "revolutionary ideas" really resonates with me. "Revolution is sometimes bloody, and sometimes, you're staring into the abyss," says Belka, who runs the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, the group at Fidelity that evaluates new technologies for potential use by the company and its customers.
Often, an innovative Bostonian helps spread a revolutionary idea around the world, whether it's organ transplantation or car-sharing. Sometimes, the idea creates a big hometown company, like Fidelity or Genzyme, and sometimes it creates a company that eventually gets acquired by an outsider (like E Ink, the pioneer of electronic paper.)
And a few more things I like about "revolutionary ideas start here": it embraces both academia and commerce; it works equally well for Boston or Massachusetts or the whole of New England; and it wasn't cooked up by a committee or consortium. Duplin and Belka assure me Fidelity has no plans to trademark the phrase, either.
You may not think we need a slogan or rallying cry for our exceptionally innovative corner of the world, but you have to admit: "Revolutionary ideas start here" is a pretty good one.
Or perhaps you have a better idea? Comments welcome...