A Time of Troubles, A Time of Opportunities

Published: April 16, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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It’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of a dark, relentless tunnel of anger and war at home and abroad. However, another story reminds us of hope and opportunities.

Not long after I completed my second book, What Do You Stand For?, I came across another book that closely paralleled my own. With a forward written by journalist Edward R. Murrow, This I Believe covers the “personal philosophies of one hundred thoughtful men and women.” In the middle of the bitterness and hostility of World War II, journalist Pat Frank’s story is both moving and compelling.

“In 1945,” Frank begins, “I followed our armies in their final thrust through Italy and then flew to Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference. The American correspondents in Berlin were housed in the suburb of Zehlendorf. I was billeted in a typical middle-class home on a shady street. My roommate was Ed Murrow. We were the only two Americans in the house.

“The Russians had occupied Zehlendorf before us, and they had stripped this house of linens and blankets, but we had our bedrolls. The elderly couple that owned the house lived over the garage. At first, these two old people were frightened of us. They had been told that Americans were barbarians. We would wreck their house and take what the Russians had overlooked.

“We told the couple to come back and live in their own house. And because Murrow and I had traveled long and far, we carried with us the staples that, in those days, correspondents did not forget—chocolate, coffee, soap, tea, K-rations, and canned meat and butter. We gave those things to the old people and told them to run the house and take for themselves whatever they needed. They were pitifully and almost incoherently grateful.

“The next night, we found flowers in our room, and I knew we had made two friends. In the ruin and bitterness of Berlin, a vase of flowers was a wonderous thing.

“I have seen and talked with the three enemy peoples of World War II—the Germans, the Japanese, and the Italians. It has always been my belief that people everywhere are fundamentally alike, and I think that it is proved by the fact that these three enemies are now our allies, actual or potential. It is fundamental that kindness will be repaid with kindness and hate by hate.

“Our generation has been bloodied by two wars and perhaps faces a third, even more frightful. But I would not have lived in another time, for there have been compensations as small as flowers offered in friendship and as inspiring as the birth of the United Nations.

“If I live in a time of troubles, I also realize that I live in a time of great opportunity. As a reporter and foreign correspondent, I was privileged to watch history being made to see events which have helped to decide whether civilization will stand or fall. I have seen time and again how tremendously important the character of ordinary individuals could be in determining whether our children would live and be proud of us. I know that I cannot escape my responsibility to put the lessons I have learned into action. With all my faults and frailties, I have a duty to myself and to the world I live in.

“Perhaps I will never know just how important it is, yet I must so live as never to be ashamed of how I fulfilled it.”

It’s hard to see opportunities in the mess we’re currently living through. By choice, each of us believes what we want to believe by what we read, see, and hear. Let’s hope that the end of our tunnel results in the wisdom to trust each other and those institutions we rely on to govern and guide us through troubled times.


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