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Fearful of the pandemic? Anxious? Eleanor Roosevelt has a message for you

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Eleanor Roosevelt addresses a session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Dec. 16, 1946. She was the first person to address the nation after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.


Forgotten for most Americans is that, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who first addressed the nation. Her husband’s words about “a date which will live in infamy” are often quoted, but Eleanor Roosevelt may have had the better, more powerful and more applicable message for such a devastating day.

And with only slight modifications as to who the enemy is and what the battle looks like, her address could be played for Americans fighting the global pandemic in 2020.

In her weekly radio program, Mrs. Roosevelt acknowledged the tragedy and assured the nation that leaders in Washington were working on a strategy. She shared her anxiety for her son in the service, who was at sea, and her concern for her other children who lived on the West Coast. She spoke to the military, to the women of the country and to the young people of the nation who would need to step up. She declared that the rock of her faith for our future was in her fellow citizens.

Today many Americans are rightly concerned about whether leaders in Washington are willing to even consider a strategy to help the nation. Yet, health care workers are, bravely and willingly, standing on the front line of the battle. 

Every individual must be willing to do their part in the effort to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, jump-start the economy and heal the nation. Overcoming COVID-19 will require a united effort from the people of the United States of America.

Mrs. Roosevelt closed by saying, “We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it … 

“You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. 

“We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.

“To the young people of the nation, I must speak a word tonight. You are going to have a great opportunity. There will be high moments in which your strength and your ability will be tested. I have faith in you. I feel as though I was standing upon a rock and that rock is my faith in my fellow citizens.”

Like 1941, the nation has been rocked by a force wreaking havoc on lives and communities at home and abroad. Even with vaccines on the way, there is still uncertainty and fear. Economic malaise is following in their wake.  

The young people of this country will be tested. Mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers all feel anxiety and fear for the families. Health care workers continue to step into harm’s way. Battles and struggles remain ahead for the country and the world.

We encourage all to heed the call of history and the lessons from Mrs. Roosevelt’s plea to the American people on Dec. 7, 1941. We share her confidence that we are, “standing upon a rock and that rock is our faith in our fellow citizens.”

Together, the enemy of 2020 must be defeated. Shared sacrifice will produce victory and better days for all.