The world was in the middle of the Great Depression, when on March 4, 1933, newly elected United States President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) encouraged all Americans during his inaugural speech by telling them, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Historians believe “FDR was most likely reassuring the public they would be able to end the Great Depression, providing they did not let fear get in their way.” It was necessary to calm the public because uncertainty produces a great amount of stress, and when the uncertainty is beyond our control, our stress meters go so much higher.
Imagine President Roosevelt’s stress level almost 10 years later when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States directly into World War II. I am sure he did not envision “the date which will live in infamy” would result in having some 16 million Americans serving in the United States Armed Forces, with over 400,000 service members dying and 670,000 being wounded. Realizing the tremendous weight President Roosevelt had on his shoulders during his terms in office should provide a lesson for us all.
Yet, the president stayed calm and steadfast in winning each battle, and ultimately his administration along with the support of the American people achieved an overall victory. Looking back on the decisions he made, some may not have provided positive results, but there was no doubt in the public’s mind that he was working to accomplish what was in the best interest of the country.
When the United States encounters such monumental challenges as my parent’s generation faced during the 1940s, it must not be a time when we are divided by political party, race or religion. It needs to be a time when we are all Americans, all in the soup together, and we should all be pulling in the same direction.
Today, with the Coronavirus very much in the news, each of us are facing a different kind of “uncertainty, which is also well beyond our control” and although we do not individually bear responsibility for the entire country, problems close to home, those which affect our loved ones and close friends, are no less important to us and no less stressful. It becomes even more confusing and unsettling because we are facing a new biological enemy, without knowing the potential impact or the end result. So, without a good understanding of the Coronavirus manifestations, without a vaccine to limit exposure, and without a direct medical cure, there is still no need to panic, instead we should do what we can to minimize the problem. We must act in a way to prevent the virus from spreading.
In that light, President Trump’s administration enacted a travel ban, limiting travel to countries with a high number of Coronavirus cases. The prospect of limiting exposure from other countries should get any reasonable person thinking about the importance of maintaining United States border security. I find it interesting that having an open border to the south has brought some diseases back into our country, which we had previously thought to have been eradicated. Yet, I believe the problem did not raise awareness to the level of the Coronavirus because we know how to effectively treat them. But, at the same time, we should look back, realize the warning signs were there, and work to prevent the same issue from raising its ugly head once again.
Next, are all those “checks and balances” put in place to keep our pharmaceutical stream safe. Under normal circumstances, these actions not only keep the public safe from new untested drugs, but also provide a level of confidence in the prescriptions we are advised to use by our physicians. But, in a time of crisis, we just cannot sit on our hands and wait for a solution. Patients who are experiencing the effects of the Coronavirus need help now, so in this situation, shortcutting some regulatory steps would seem appropriate, and I was pleased to see President Trump signed an executive order to have that happen as well.
Yet, what I find even more troubling is the public’s lack of understanding. The American Emergency Management and Health Care system does not have the capacity to handle a situation where a very large number of our citizens need immediate assistance. For example, do you remember when New Orleans was flooded by a major hurricane? Local, state and even federal emergency management resources could not handle the situation, in fact it took additional help from all over the country to get control of that problem. Now, imagine if a problem, of the same magnitude, occurred in multiple places around the country at the same time. There are times when individual citizens will need to be prepared and fend for themselves. If you wonder where I am going with this, it is a reminder that the Coronavirus problem will not be solved by panicking and hoarding toilet paper.
But I do see a bright spot in the darkness and fear surrounding this latest challenge. With the federal government, the state, the county, and the City of Santa Clarita all declaring a “State of Emergency,” the public is stepping up to do their part. Organizations all over the country, including my own, are cancelling meetings and events, as an effort to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. I applaud their efforts and hope these actions will save many Americans the burden of having to battle this new sickness.
From my perspective, I am asking our community to look to the future and discontinue spreading false information and conspiracy theories. Instead, we should take the recommended precautions and spend the time required to stay in contact with our loved ones, particularly those who are frail or elderly, because they may become in desperate need of our help. Remember, it is not the politicians, but the medical and biological professionals who need the time to come up with a solution.
I am therefore hoping we can all take the example set by our country’s “Greatest Generation” by heeding the words of President Roosevelt, when he advised all Americans, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Because, in the future, there will come a time when the Coronavirus will be history. Let’s all hope and pray that time will come quickly, and let’s not let fear get in the way.