Throughout American history, our grand experiment in democracy has always been marked by hope for a better tomorrow and only in our darkest hours have we allowed ourselves to succumb to fear.
By David Todd McCarty | Sunday, February 9, 2020
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his 1933 inaugural address following his landslide victory against Herbert Hoover, and at the peak of the Great Depression, told the crowd gathered, “The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
“Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
“Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”
We would do well to once gain heed those words nearly a century later, as we too find ourselves in perilous and fearful times. But once again, we must resist the temptation to be overcome by fear. We have been through dark days as a nation before, whether it was the Depression, Suffrage, Civil Rights, Women’s rights, and more recently Gay Rights. There were many dark days and nights to be sure, in each of those struggles, where the outcome was far from certain and our oppressors close at hand. But always, always, America has come through on the other side, stronger and more prepared for the next obstacle as only a nation of dreamers could be expected to be.
So we need, more than ever, people willing to stand and fight, but also to dream and prepare for a better tomorrow. We need bold ideas and plans for the unthinkable. We need fighters, but we also need thinkers and teachers, because today we reach for the stars and require faith that we can do the impossible. This is truly the great strength of the American spirit. Not our ability to fight wars, or invent new technology. Our strength lies in our ability to hope, even when things look hopeless. To love, when we are surrounded by hate. To dream when our reality is crumbling around us. America’s strength isn’t any one dream, it’s our ability to dream.
We are a resilient people to be sure, full of hopes and dreams and a strength of character that has allowed us to be pioneers in everything from the Great Plains to technology, innovation, the moon and beyond. These are not the accomplishments of a fearful people.
We have seen dark days, when we failed as a nation to remember that we were dreamers and full of hope. When we massacred the natives, interned the Japanese, enslaved a people, and accused our neighbors of being communists and traitors. We have seen dark days, and we are in a period of darkness right now.
It’s true that Democrats and other caring souls on the Left are battered, worn and frayed. It’s been three years of what feels like a constant assault on the soul; where happiness and joy have seemingly been sucked from the room like a vacuum, and paralyzing anxiety is our default setting. This is what darkness feels like.
We are tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of defending. Tired of arguing that facts exist and that truth matters. Tired of trying to explain to our neighbors and friends that other people’s lives matter. Tired because the rules as we knew them have been thrown out.
The enemy is not just at the gates, but in control of the castle. These are dark days.
But it is not time to panic. It’s not a time to succumb to fear. It is a time, once again, to dream about a better tomorrow. This is not about living a fantasy, this is how we plan. Because first, always, we must visualize what can be. We must dream.
When Dr. King said he had a dream, he wasn’t speaking about the unattainable, he was making plans for the future. As citizens we are no longer in a position to hope for incremental measures from our leaders, as we seem to be moving backwards, not forwards. We must dream big, expect great things and be ready to compromise along the way towards success. We can expect defeats, but if we can take two step forwards for each step backward, we will eventually move forward towards a better tomorrow.
Now is a time for dreaming.
Now is when we make plans for the future.
Now is a time for hope.