Something better than fear for an outlook

(This editorial first appeared in The People-Sentinel Jan. 21, 2009)

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.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
March 4, 1933

When Franklin D. Roosevelt made these remarks in his first inaugural address, he faced a nation that now seems to be facing similar problems today.

However, Roosevelt's problems were in a magnitude arguably larger than what the United States has now.

The nation then was in the midst of the Great Depression, a malaise as much mental as it was financial. Also, FDR faced a nation where about a fourth of its population was unemployed. Banks were still failing from the stock market crash of 1929, wiping out people's savings. Along with it, the faith in the country was being eroded as well.

On the global scene, FDR was beginning to hear the early saber-rattling of Nazi Germany and imperialistic Japan.

Today is the first full day of Barack Obama's presidential administration. Historians have already noted the similarities to the challenges facing the 44th president seem akin to the ones that confronted the 32nd president.

Obama has inherited a nation that is in more of mental depression caused by evaporating jobs, the precarious condition of the mortgage loan and automotive industries as well as big corporations in general.

Barnwell County is already seeing the effects of the national economy on a local scale. Perhaps it is the uncertainty - the fear - that touched off a recent and totally groundless rumor that Horsehead Corp. would pull out of the county.

That rumor, and the fear it ignited, brought color back to FDR's historic words, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

With all new endeavors, there is a tinge of fear edging them - the unknown, the untried, the untested - hence uncomfort - of new experiences and new surroundings.

The same can be applied to new leaders.

As Obama takes the presidency, he is untried in this capacity (and hence unknown), but he won't be untested for long.

Presidents in one sense are national cheerleaders. Even when the team is not scoring any points, cheerleaders don't stop encouraging.

Obama has already proved himself by renewing optimism and hope in many Americans during a time they could just as easily be bleak.

It's a point of comfort worth noting as we wish him the best in his administration.