Franklin Delano Roosevelt or FDR was the 32nd President of the United States (1933 -1945) and the only one elected to more than two terms. His theme song during his 1932 election campaign was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a sharp contrast to the worldwide economic depression that was currently in full force.
As I look forward to a New Year of unknown outcomes, I think of FDR at the beginning of his first term. Did he know that he would lead his country through a horrific world war? Did he see an end to the suffering caused by the Great Depression? History records his accomplishments: a New Deal Coalition that realigned the political landscape after 1932, domestic policies that introduced a variety of programs designed to produce relief, recovery and reform, international policies that fostered cooperation, and supported the United Nations and Bretton Woods.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the personification of goodwill. May we remember his legacy as we enter a New Year…
“We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.”
“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all people, of all kind, to live together, in the same world at peace.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
A new year is before us – a blank slate, tabula rasa. While we cannot foresee our destiny nor discern all the pathways we will follow in 2013, we can establish a mind-set, an approach for how we will participate.
“Goodwill to All” is the third and final Christmas theme that has stayed with me throughout the years. “Goodwill” is where the two previous themes find fulfillment. This discussion is aligned to bridge into a New Year, a time when we reflect upon the past and prepare for the future. The good news! “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth” will become a reality if we practice “Goodwill to All.” This week, I want to explore “goodwill” as we understand it within the human experience. Goodwill is arguably the most complex of the three discussions because it requires us to interact within our physical and social environment.
Frederick Buechner, an American writer and theologian, once said: “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you, too.”
Peace allows us to pursue our purpose in life – to discover and explore what drives our creative and intellectual passions. It is the one gift that we can give ourselves, irrespective of external circumstances.
Peace is the absence of anger:
“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Peace is the absence of envy:
“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
Peace is an open heart and a willingness to be a positive influence for good:
“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”
Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Virginia Woolf once said: “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Peace is found in action!
The indomitable Eleanor Roosevelt declared: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Even so, it is difficult at times to know how to participate. How do we “work at it?”
Perhaps the “work” is sharing kindness and love. A gentle word said in passing, a smile exchanged with a co-worker, a hug given when sorrow has visited a friend. St. Francis of Assisi prayed: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”
“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Peace thrives on understanding and dies on ignorance. The Dalai Lama is quite clear on this point: “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.” Helen Keller declared: “I do not want the peace which passeth understanding; I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned: “Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.”
Understanding is not as easy as it seems especially when we live in a complex, diverse and fast paced world where value systems are being continually challenged. But “lasting peace” is worth the effort.
- Apartheid – the repugnant policy or system of segregation or discrimination based on racial standards
- Nelson Mandela (Madiba – his Xhosa clan name) – the anti-apartheid activist, the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC)
Nelson Mandela was charismatic, handsome, a brilliant communicator, and a serious activist. He was at his peak when he was handed a prison sentence – intellectual courage fused with physical strength, a dynamic and deadly combination. Elegantly dressed in the most expensive suits, he was the quintessential revolutionary ready to accept any risk in pursuit of his dream: “an Africa which is in peace with itself.” Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison. He never lost courage. Instead, he found a way to achieve peace.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Nelson Mandela (Madiba)