I have seen several references to FDR's inauguration speech pop up recently in light of the current financial crisis. Michael Winship wrote a post titled: Franklin Roosevelt, A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You in which he touches on the leadership that has been lacking in this crisis.
We thirst for leadership, vision, someone who can speak to us in a way that refuses to avert its eyes from the crisis but shines a light of truth upon the problem, then offers hope and possible solutions.If this is indeed an economic 9/11, as some have suggested, we need that voice now. Right now. And so far it has yet to be heard. Not from McCain, or Obama, or President Bush.
Leadership is not about scaring people into giving you what you want (or think you need). It is more than telling people to "go shopping" (think what we could have accomplished in the last 7 years if we, as a country, had been called on to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil instead of being called on to attack a country that had no connection to 9/11).
Leadership is about inspiring and pulling people together into a common cause...not because they are terrified and need protection, but because they strong and willing to do what it takes to make our country strong.
The interesting thing is that sometimes what is needed is a "pretty speech" to inspire people towards a higher goal. FDR did it, JFK did it. And it is one of the things that has drawn me towards Obama. I believe that the potential is there for an inspiring leader...one who can call on us as a nation to live up to the principles on which our country was founded and restore our trust in ourselves.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is the phrase that everyone remembers, but here’s a little more of what FDR had to say:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper…
“In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income... More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment…
“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 that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit…If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well.”
Let's hope that I am right.