Freedom from fear
As the presidential election winds its way to the finish line, I've been thinking quite a bit about the election of 1932.
The stock market, you may recall, crashed in 1929. The Depression followed, although historians are still debating the whole cause/effect issue.
Let's get one thing straight: We're nowhere near a Depression. News reports tell me the stock market made the biggest one-day points jump in its history. It isn't enough to relieve tensions, but it's a start.
But the election of 1932 is worth contemplating awhile because it fundamentally centered around leadership -- and which candidate was ready to step up to the plate in a critical time. (I'm reading a book I've left sitting on the shelf for awhile, David Kennedy's "Freedom From Fear," about the Depression and World War II. Fascinating stuff to say the least -- full of points to ponder.)
Nobody but a nutty ideologue would make the argument that FDR wasn't the leader for that time. We can debate his legacy, his decisions, his philosophy. But his greatest strength was that he helped ease the anxiety, the fear, of the American people. If much of the New Deal didn't pull us out of the Depression, it certainly gave people hope.
Which brings us to 2008. Of the two major candidates, which one is ready to lead? Frankly, it's hard to say. One has precious little experience; the other often seems light-years removed from the challenges of our day.
We won't know until after Election Day. And this is a tough time to be learning on the job.
History, though, proves we shouldn't push the panic button just yet. Abraham Lincoln had precious little experience when he was elected in 1860. He proved more than up to the task; he went on to become the greatest American president.
Teddy Roosevelt was considered to be untried and untested as well; so, too, was Ronald Reagan.
All I know is this election feels so important, so vital in determining what path we want to travel down in a world that no longer seems familiar. The problems are too great, too directly linked to our future, to remain cynical, or worse, uninformed.
Get out and vote. Pay attention to the issues, to the candidates and make a decision based on thoughtful contemplation, research and that strong feeling deep down in your gut.
I never thought I'd ever quote LBJ's shameless "Daisy" ad, but this year, the stakes seem to high to stay at home.