September 2, 2007

No Ordinary Time:
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Doris Kearns Goodwin

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow – Let’s talk about challenges. And let’s talk about leadership. In 1940, the U.S. military ranked 18th in the world. We would rise to 17th only after Hitler’s Nazis captured Holland. In 1940, America was suffering its 11th consecutive year of economic depression, with about 17 percent of the workforce (roughly 10 million people) unemployed. Nearly a third (35 million) of the country’s homes and apartments did not have running water or indoor toilets. Of 74 million Americans 25 years or older only 2 of every 5 had continued their education beyond the 8th grade. One in 4 had graduated from high school. One in 20 had completed college. The United States has nearly tripled its population since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President and Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady; today, we are a nation of about 301 million people. Our military is the most powerful in the world. Our economy is productive. Our people are better educated, with about 84 percent of those 25 years or older having graduated high school and about 3 in 10 having earned bachelor’s degrees. But is today’s United States of America truly a “better” nation? Is a country that fails to capture Bin Laden, invades the wrong nation, condones torture, runs secret prisons, fails to rebuild American towns devastated by storms, ignores basic science, fails to provide even basic protections for American consumers, and bathes in the sleaze of moral hypocrisy a “better” country? No. We once elected the kind of leaders who buoyed America by telling us, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Today, George Bush deliberately instills fear at every turn by shrieking, “We must fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them over here.” Enough is enough … or is it? Americans are clearly eager for new leadership, but that won’t come from blood thirsty fear-mongers in the Republican party or spineless panderers in the Democratic party. Bold, hopeful leadership will only arise when the American people themselves rise up – and how unlikely is that? This is no ordinary time, indeed: Despite decades of progress and gains (and, perhaps, in part, because of such “gains”), America has never been more asleep or ineptly led. We’ve been knocked to the mat by the one-two punch of over-exposure (i.e., to scare tactics, lies and half-truths) and over-indulgence (i.e., too much TV, too much diversionary consumerism, too many anti-depressants and painkillers that effectively blind us from facing the truth). No leader is standing in our corner, cheering from ringside for us to come to our senses, get up, get back on our feet and get back into the fight. That courage must come from within.


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