Would America's Founding Fathers be pleased?

PHILADELPHIA - This week, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley has been talking to a panel of smart people -- from outside Washington -- about how to get America back on track.

The panel gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where in 1787, the country was in a crisis. Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin - 55 delegates in all - gathered to write the Constitution and and move the country forward.

On the floor above where the Founders had parties and meetings, CBS News gathered some of the most thoughtful Americans we could find.

Included on the panel: Mary Frances Berry, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City and President of the Republican Mayors Association; Michelle Rhee, CEO of StudentsFirst and former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system; John Bogle, founder of the world's largest mutual fund company, the Vanguard Group; Arturo Vargas, the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Matthew Segal, co-founder of OurTime.org, an organization focused on empowering youth; Eileen McDonnell, President and CEO of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company; and Dr. Pedro Jose "Joe" Greer, Jr., Assistant Dean of Medicine at Florida International University.="http:>

The panel told CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley what gives them hope. Here's how that part of the conversation went.

Pelley: Tell me one thing that is working well, one thing that gives you hope.

Mick Cornett: I still believe in American ingenuity. I think the 18th century was about the best farm. I think the 19th century saw a move toward a more manufacturing economy. I think the 20th century was about creating the most efficient factory. But the 21st century is going to be about ideas. And I think America's going to produce the most ideas and we're going to reign supreme.

PICTURES: Meet the panel

Matthew Segal: I say the service ethic of the country, but in particular my generation, gives me hope in the sense that applications to AmeriCorps and City Year and all these public service programs have doubled and tripled.

Eileen McDonnell: I like the fact that people are taking personal responsibility, that they're really taking a hard look at the actions that they're taking in their households every day. Folks don't want to throw the towel, that there is still that glimmer of optimism and hope. And so I see that as something that's going well.

Cornett: Well, optimism is critical. It's especially critical to consumer confidence, which is going to ultimately drive the economy.

Arturo Vargas: We still have immigrants who come to this country who are fundamentally optimistic, who believe in the American Dream, who believe this is the land of opportunity, who really invigorate our democracy. That gives me hope.

Pelley: We have spoken to people all over this country who have told us that their children are not going to be as well-off as they were.

McDonnell: I think if we keep talking about it, it will happen. (CHUCKLE) If we change the frame of reference and say it is possible to make that happen, we're smart enough, there's folks in this room represented from all walks of life, spectrum of experience in life. I think if we put our heads together and think about it, we can move forward.

Pelley: Mary Francis, I've been dying to ask you this question (LAUGH) as long as we've been planning this. Maybe nobody in the country can give us the perspective that you can give us on this.The men who met in this room, what would they think of us today, the Founders?

Mary Frances Berry: I think they would say that their system holds and that over time it will come together. And no one has thought of a better one. Think about that. (LAUGH)

Watch clips of the first two panel reports below

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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