Presidents Roosevelt, Washington and Election Day 2016
On January 20, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his third Inaugural Address:
“The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our first President in his first Inaugural in 1789 – words almost directed, it would seem, to this year of 1941:
‘The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered. . . deeply . . . finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’
Roosevelt continued, “If you and I in this later day lose that sacred fire – if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear – then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish.
“The preservation of the spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of national defense.
“In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America.
“We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.”
President Roosevelt said these words at a time when the world seemed complex and frightening, when the future appeared dark and foreboding.
The past years of the Great Depression were barely behind us, and the path forward was quite uncertain. Less than a year later, we would once again be at war.
Seventy-five years later, we face similar complexity in a dangerous global situation, and there is a palpable uneasiness with the domestic environment as we approach Election Day.
The last few years have been unusual in their coarseness, the lack of civility and the downright partisan hostility expressed in public discourse.
On the morning of Nov. 9, the day after Election Day, America will have a new president-elect. Whomever that may be, both sides need to accept the will of the American people. For the nation to progress and to heal, the democratic result of the election must stand.
The side which is victorious must humbly reach out to the side who lost, because once they take the oath of office in January 2017, the new president shoulders the awesome responsibility to lead all of the people of the nation.
The side which is defeated must concede that the majority has spoken, and vow to support the efforts of the new administration to advance America’s future.
This will be an historic election – perhaps an inflection point, and we, as citizens of the greatest democracy on earth, must vote our conscience.
Our duty does not stop there, however.
When the results are in, we must follow Washington’s charge to preserve our destiny and “the sacred fire of liberty.”
The survival of the American experiment is not a given, unless we as citizens are willing to follow Roosevelt’s call “to perpetuate the integrity of democracy.”
Forty-four times before we have succeeded in the peaceful transfer of power of our President.
Let the 45th be no different.
See you on the high ground.