Americans need constant perseverance

Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his inaugural address seventy-six years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous words, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” echoed throughout the countryside. In a time when the average American was struggling to find food, families continued looking to the future. They didn’t give up; they persevered. Their determination inspired future generations to dream bigger.When I watch the news, I feel that so many commentators today give us reasons to fear or hang our head; we’re always nearing the end. It’s good to be informed and good to be well read, but how can we stay optimistic when it seems we are constantly being encouraged to fear what will happen next?

Fear cripples dreams and weighs down hope. Imagine an America where you are told your biggest dream can’t happen because that America no longer exists. I keep hearing people talk like that. Imagine how our history would look if, at the outset of an earlier crisis, Americans gave up and let fear take over their lives. Well I can’t imagine it, and I won’t. Every generation has its own adversity, and every generation must step up to the challenge and fix the problems. We can’t let ourselves get bogged down in fear or hopelessness and forget about what really matters. We are a country and a people who thrive on adversity. It hasn’t seemed to matter if the struggle was internal or external, economic or moral.

We’ve always found a way to make our lives better by sheer belief, determination and hard work. The war of rebellion against England that founded our country was thought by most to be impossible, but it succeeded and resulted in a country greater than the world had ever seen. Slavery didn’t automatically make men and women give up. Many of them fought harder and forced others to see and end the suffering. Living on earth didn’t keep men from their dreams of walking on the moon, and a Great Depression didn’t cause Americans to throw in the towel and quietly drift away in economic uncertainty. One thing we’ve learned about our world is that there will always be struggles and injustices that cause us to want to break down or give in. At the same time, there always seem to be people there to encourage us and lift us up.

As I listen to the snow geese flying overhead, I know the spring means more to me because I experienced the winter. Because we struggle through the hard times, Americans can appreciate the good times. America will always be that ideal place where every generation is expected by the last to carry its banner forward, where each generation has shown us how to get through the difficulties. We are expected to look to the future and make a better world than the one around us.

FDR also gave us a description of America in his first inaugural, delivered on March 4, 1933, that is especially appropriate to these times. “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.”

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