Today the media is filled with the looming possibility of a serious recession and high unemployment rates. The housing industry has done a meltdown throughout the country and airlines are calling it quits. Banks likeWachovia that were once considered household names are running for cover and doing everything within their means to raise money; and topping off the cake the gas prices just keep rising and rising. These are uncertain times with a crystal ball that seems just not willing to reveal what in store in the near future.
For a younger generation this is the first time that the fear of hard times may be resonating within their households. A home foreclosure, a layoff slip and the inability to pay gas prices have come to roost in their dreams. A younger generation may believe that this is no ordinary time in history, but these times only stand in the shadow of a much darker economic time. That time was 1929-1945.
Stories of this time have been run into the ground by grandparents and parents until the words are no longer heard. They have been replaced with the sound of cell phones and downloaded songs on MP3 players; but even if no one is listening the history still stands. The Great Depression and World War II were no ordinary time. It was a time that excelled ordinary people into becoming exceptional, and exceptional people into greatness.
Do you see emptiness, or do you see possibilities?…
Two of these exceptional people were Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Their story has been told in numerous biographies, on film, and television, yet it seems no matter how are we try, we can not capture the full measure of these two people. Each on their own have written history, each on their own fill volumes, but apart from their separateness was their partnership, a partnership that kept the United States believing in better times and the return of peace in the world.
Franklin became president of the United States in 1933 but it was not without misgivings from Eleanor; for by the time he started back into political life the two had basically come to lead separate lives. With Franklin’s affair with Lucy Mercer, which Eleanor discovered in 1918, she realized that she had been naïve to life and set out on her own course. They never divorced but their relationship was forever changed. In that change she found a new freedom, a freedom to immerse herself into the causes she had always felt so strongly about. Her views on human rights, civil rights and women’s suffrage were now to be publicly heard.
Her full freedom was short lived when in 1921 Franklin contracted polio and was paralyzed from his waist down. He would never again walk on his own. For the handsome, athletic Franklin that was something he could not readily accept; his process of recovery was long and introspective. The arrogance of his youth was now redirected; his energy was taken to the nation and common man with greater purpose. For Eleanor acceptance was a mute point, she did what needed to be done and at his side she became his not only his caregiver but political confident. It was during this time she took on probably her most important role, the role of Franklin’s and the nations “eyes and ears.”
The bond between the Franklin and Eleanor was solidified. Their responsibility was to the nation, its people, and regaining stability in an unstable world. During Franklin’s four term presidency, Eleanor though not always at his side was always in contact with the president. His paralyses most of the time left him confided to the White House so he would send her on trips across the country talking to the people, visiting hospitals, making speeches; nightly she would report back what she saw, heard, felt and even smelt for Franklin wanted all the details, he wanted to know what was happening in the country and what the people were feeling. When Eleanor spoke, Franklin listened; the trust and commitment in the alliance they had formed and its impact on the recovery of the United States can not ever be overestimated.
Where many during the Era of the Great Depression saw Emptiness–
Franklin and Eleanor saw Possibilities —
What do we see?
For more information on this partnership I recommend reading —- “No Ordinary Time” by Doris Kearns Goodwin