Now you can imagine the conversation. Its just after Christmas, 1940. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt find themselves alone at dinner in the White House after a strenuous week of politics and guests in an otherwise subdued Washington, subdued given the time of year with Congress in Christmas recess, and deeply concerned by the abhorrent events in Europe. France and most of Europe had fallen to the Nazis and England is under the relentless Blitz of the German Luftwaffe. Perhaps a conversation along the following lines takes place:
Eleanor: "Franklin Dahling, how fortunate we are to have celebrated this Christmas amongst family and friends. But what is happening in Europe is dastardly. We must find a way to help and to prepare. If we don't show fortitude that madman Hitler and his Nahzis will attack us as well."
Franklin: "Eleanor dear, I agree with you but what is it that we can do other than becoming a belligerent our selves. Congress is just not prepared to engage the axis powers."
Eleanor: "Franklin Dahling, I have been thinking. We are not yet at war but it may come and we must prepare. And we must help those who would be our allies.
Our nation is coming out of a Depression and our jobless are many. Our confidence is low as we stand idly by while it seems others are deciding our destiny. Our nation has great talent and great potential and we must now, immediately, call on all to help us help ourselves and begin once more to determine our future and our destiny. We must harness our industrial might and transform our industry from idle pleasure to become the "Arsenal of Democracy."
And you Franklin must lead and you must help so that our industry can become the builder of tanks and canons and great battle ships, for ourselves and all those who share our values!"
Shortly thereafter, on December 29,1940 with most of Europe laying at feet of Nazi Germany, in one of his venerable fireside chats, Franklin Roosevelt highlighted the phrase that America would become the "Arsenal of Democracy" wiping away any sense of complacency from a then isolationist nation. In a symbolic call to arms he summoned Americans to become "the spearhead of resistance to world conquest." He then focused on what would become the "splendid cooperation between the government, industry and labor" and "how important the manufacture of weapons and vehicles is to being a strong nation."
Then in 1940 and the war years ahead Detroit changed almost overnight from being the world's most important builder of passenger cars to building the tanks and motorized equipment and armaments, metaphorically becoming our "Arsenal of Democracy" that carried this nation and its "greatest generation" to ultimate victory.
And today is today. While our administration has done little and Congress not much more to get the oil monkey off our backs, we have Paris Hilton invoking Eleanor Roosevelt in a modern day call to enlisting our industry, our labor and our government to a higher calling. Paris Hilton, in the publicity glare of the McCain camps misguided political bombast, had the presence of mind, nay the gumption to become not the joke but the leader, calling for "creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars" thereby giving focus and wide cognizance to one of the lynchpins of Barack Obama's energy platform. Paris Hilton playing Eleanor Roosevelt to Obama's President Franklin Roosevelt. A bit of a stretch perhaps, but think about it and think of what the "Arsenal of Democracy" did for Detroit and the nation.
Follow Raymond J. Learsy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/raymondLearsy