We are only as strong as our weakest link. We are only as powerful as unity and a common vision.
These are not hopeful times, in many ways. These are, however, times where those who are meant to lead will not shy away from conflict; they will realize the implications of their actions and the impact their actions have on all of us, through time and space. These can be scary times, but these can also be uplifting times. Only when times are bad will we ever manage to make change and necessary reforms. What we have all been clamoring for may very soon become a reality, but we may all have to suffer equally to receive it. Such is the nature of change.
When we rise, we will rise from the bottom up and we will all rise together. This is the time for leaders to lead. This is the time for us not to bury our heads in the sand or avoid the challenges that present themselves in future. The developmental psychologist Piaget said, "Times of disequilibrium mean that we are only about to learn something". Our times are full of disequilibrium, so to echo him, I know we are all about to learn something.
My grandparents on both sides idolized a man, a very human man with human flaws. He happened to be elected President at a most crucial time, and he promised new reforms desperately needed for those troubled times. The reforms of the previous Republican administration had failed, and people looked to government to intervene to end the crisis. As he put it,
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. So, first of all, 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. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
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 the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days 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 and to our fellow men.
To view or listen to the whole speech, go here.
Those who would give major speeches in a matter of hours would be wise to remember these words.