Arduous days, warm courage, national unity
No one in this country since the Spanish Influenza of 1918 has ever been through what Americans are experiencing with the coronavirus. Watching the chaos in China and Italy, watching the exponential increase in victims infected, watching small businesses close their doors, and finding grocery store shelves picked clean has Americans on edge and living in fear. It’s times like these when we wish we had a great orator like Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill to assure us and keep our courage strong.
Since we do not, it’s worth revisiting FDR’s inaugural address on March 4, 1933. As you’ll recall, Roosevelt took office in the midst of the Great Depression when unemployment was 25%, productivity in the U.S. was a third of its normal capacity, and families in the great plains were simply abandoning their farms out of desperation.
The most famous words of Roosevelt’s address were of course, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
But in this same speech Roosevelt also said, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly… . This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper … .We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stem performance of duty by old and young alike.”
In a time when we’re all threatened by a microscopic but dangerous virus, it’s worth remembering that our forebears faced equally frightening times and did so with courage, level headedness, and even good cheer. This is a time to look out for yourselves and your families, but also a time to rise above our fears and weaker instincts in the spirit of Roosevelt some 90 years ago.