Seventy five years ago yesterday, on March 4, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in to begin his first term. He delivered his famed inaugural address where he declared:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
My grandfather, like many of his generation from rural Midwest, credits FDR and the New Deal from keeping our family from starving. This speech reminded me that our country has made it through far tougher times. More importantly, it ignited a fury that burns against the politics of winning by making people afraid. Candidates that drum up fears of economic devastation, of never ending war, or of terrorism, should be rejected. We should all hunger for a rebirth of FDR’s optimistic, uniquely American, spirit and resolve.
Update: The brilliant and lovely Dr. Rachel Maddow has a similar post up today. She says, in part:
In January 1941, at a time when the world was at war and the United States was more threatened than we had ever been in our history, FDR stood before the US Congress and hailed freedom from fear. That remains the paradigm of Democratic leadership in a threatening world.
When a politician looks at risks to our country and sees an opportunity for political exploitation, rather than an opportunity to rally the nation around our unified strength and fearlessness, that politician spits in the face of Democratic leadership and patriotic values.
If there’s one thing we ought to have learned from the George W. Bush presidency, it’s that there’s a difference between Democrats and Republicans on whether the American people should be encouraged to cower in fear.