We have survived crises before. However, the events we are now facing have brought about an unimaginable chain reaction. This is not the America many of us grew up with and loved.
We’ve faced down bullies before, but these current threats come in a different form: deceit, corruption, unreason, and disease; not just disease from a deadly virus, but an infectious disease of distrust and division. America is not only facing a crisis of leadership and unity but a crisis of conscience. However, the responsibility for much of this lies beyond Washington.
“The country has to awaken, every now and then, to the fact that the people are responsible for the government they get,” President Harry Truman observed. “And when they elect a man to the presidency who doesn’t take care of the job, they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.”
Hard words to hear but true.
How do we set aside our biases and accept objective facts and truth?
When will we return to mutual respect?
When will we begin to trust again?
On the brink of nuclear war, President Kennedy assured the nation that “The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage…”
Taking his oath of office during a nationwide depression, Franklin Roosevelt gave us the strength that would calm our deepest doubts by reminding us that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Kennedy and Roosevelt succeeded, in large part, because the country believed in them, trusted them to lead us out of the crisis of the moment. Today, trust is hard to come by amid raucous partisan rallies, and a segment of the media that has replaced thoughtful dialog with “alternative facts” and false conspiracy theories.
Today, we are facing a moment of principle unlike anything we have faced in decades, and if we want to reclaim America’s integrity, it will take all of us to stand up and stand for the kind of change that requires discipline and determination “…consistent with our character and courage.” Good character is formed by living under conditions that demand good conduct. Such conduct asks us to rise above our perceptions and fears through the faith in our country and its people.
This will not happen all at once. But as we gradually heal from this medical crisis, let us begin to heal by returning to the values we strive to live by: trustworthiness, responsibility, tolerance, and justice.
“If I read the temper of our people correctly,” Franklin Roosevelt said at his first inaugural address, “we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.”
The greatness of America lies in its people, a diverse group of creative, productive, and compassionate people who work together in a country where all things are possible, where miracles happen.
To restore America’s integrity, we need to restore ourselves with the same faith and devotion to principle that the founders fostered, creating a better tomorrow for us all.