Character, not just the Great Depression, has me thinking about Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama in tandem as I wait (anxiously) for the American people to give Senator Obama the opportunity to redirect our tattered ship of state. I am, simply, captivated by people who refuse to be defined by apparent obstacles which would stop most of us in our tracks.
I'm only just internalizing how profoundly the polio which struck FDR in 1921 threatened his political future. Conventional wisdom was clear. Cripples (yup, that's what people who could not walk were called...) Cripples simply did not and could not get elected, especially to a high level office. FDR's political enemies and friends alike completely wrote him off. But his wife didn't.
How different is this from the realistic measure Barack Obama took of the impact that the color of his skin would have as he sought to serve the nation? I compare that reality check to the courage and commitment the Senator and his wife had to have when service called him. The Obamas have looked steadfastly into the hate-lined faces of political foes who, to their eternal shame, have lied, distorted and race-baited in their unrelenting, disgusting siege against a genuine public servant. It is a tribute to the bankruptcy of their ideas, the vacuity of their thinking, that they attack a good man rather than offer constructive ways of repairing that tattered ship.
Similar to Senator Obama, Roosevelt's grandson Curtis suggests in his own memoir that it was, in fact, FDR's faith and confidence in himself with which the American people identified. "The hope (FDR) instilled in people had its source in his ability to overcome the despair he felt when faced with the paralysis he could not surmount."
Had FDR been hale and hearty, would he have been the shining example the nation needed? Would Obama have developed his remarkably steady strength of character and compassion for those less fortunate, if he had not been "tested", as any person of color most assuredly is in the United States?
Neither Franklin Roosevelt nor Barack Obama yielded to the smallness of others. It is my fondest possible hope that the American people will again prove the cynics wrong.
And, yes, it's true. I can hardly wait for another Democratic President willing to say, as FDR did during the 1933 electoral race, ""My policy is as radical...as the Constitution."
Look for hundreds of "Conversations with People at the Leading Edge", including one with H.W. Brands whose new biography of FDR prompted "The Economist", that radical rag, to feature both Obama (whom they endorsed) and FDR this week. Our website is PaulaGordon.com and "sunlightoxygen" is the YouTube name to use when looking for our video excerpts.