Everybody can be great, and anyone can instill hope: FDR’s example

Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:23pm
By: Letters to the ...

My family had the privilege of visiting Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park in Warm Springs, Ga., over the Thanksgiving holiday.

As I gazed at the photo [of Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson playing the accordian while mourning the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Ga., April 1945, in the famous photo by Ed Clark for Life Magazine] it became engraved on my soul.

I know our country and our times are moving forward, and it can even be found in a black man winning the votes to be our next president.

But seeing the posters and signs from that night on Nov. 4 in Chicago — such as “Hope Wins!” — did not resonate with me. When I looked at this man’s eyes in a huge blown-up image at this small but spirit-filled museum that chronicled FDR’s life, finally I knew why.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Our nation’s greatest presidents leave powerful legacies where they definitely desired to serve. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came from an aristocratic family, who lived in Hyde Park, New York. He didn’t need to enter into any form of public office to have fame and fortune.

He came to Warm Springs, Ga., seeking the comfort of the natural springs’ temperatures to soothe his afflictions from polio. He swam in a pool at the Meriwether Inn with all the other people — mostly kids — frolicking and playing in a way where the 88-degree water could give him freedom and movement that he could not experience on land.

And then, what he did with the rest of his time in Warm Springs is profoundly simple yet spiritually distinguished.

He would get in his topless roadster vehicle and drive around to the farms and homes of the average and ordinary people of Warm Springs and he would talk to them. It was the Depression. What a time to become president!

He was astounded to realize that the few who had electricity paid more than he paid at the White House. So, he passed the Rural Electrification Act to bring electricity to rural homes throughout America.

He spoke with the farmers and laughed with their children. The people of this town take heart in knowing that his communion with them led him to develop the New Deal. It took time, but eventually Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered Americans out of their darkest days.

The citizens of this town have a tender memory of this president. They share stories of a personable, sincere man whom they believed — no — they knew he looked out for them. He understood their plight and he longed to make their lives better.

In America’s painful history with those of African descent and those with dark-colored skin, we are not reaching a distinctly better time than ever because someone with color will become president.

If we are to continually elevate our consciences, we can be excited that this candidate with hopes and ideals that are shared did win. But in itself, did hope win? No, because in the hearts of Americans, hope springs eternal.

Look at the face of the grieving C.P.O in southern Georgia. Clearly, he experienced a personal loss. The streams of his tears, the warm waters that made his president visit his town — these are his proof that hope springs eternal.

Now, all that we can hope is that our nation’s next leader has a “heart full of grace” and that we all end up blessed by our next president’s endeavors and more hopefully, by his accomplishments.

Antoinette Marie Egan

Peachtree City, Ga.

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