Last week I travelled to Washington D.C. with my husband, Mark, for his work with the National Coalition of Cancer Survivors. Before the Cancer Policy and Advocacy Team work began, we had the pleasure of wandering around our beautiful capital city and touring the monuments and working buildings of our nation by bicycle. On a beautiful Sunday morning, we hopped on our bikes, wheeled past the Capitol onto the Mall heading toward the Washington monument. We circled the great obelisk contemplating the early days of our nation and set off to the Lincoln Monument. As we mounted the steps with our bicycles and leaned them against a magnificent column, the cool, dark reverence of the massive Lincoln Memorial took us in. I felt the legacy of our nation, both the good & the bad.
Upon entering each monument, the weight of time, history, and legacy bear down on you. The history learned in school combines with your own real-life experience and bring the monuments to life. As we rode through the WWII monument, I said a silent prayer of thanks to my 93-year-old father who served in the Navy, and for all of those who fought for the world I was born and brought up in. A world that could have been far different without their sacrifice. We headed to the Jefferson Monument entering the tidal basin at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the massive rocks leading us in to that part of our national legacy.
As we rounded around the tidal basin, we came upon the Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument. A monument I didn’t even know existed. I was unprepared for the emotional effect that the sprawling granite blocks representing FDR’s four terms as president had on me. I quietly rolled my bike through the monument reading Roosevelt’s quotations engraved into the stone: “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” FDR, October 2, 1932.
What most came to my mind was how different my life and our nation would be if we had a different kind of president during that turbulent time in our history. One who was not as empathetic; one who did not stand up for the cares and concerns of all our citizens. “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” FDR, January 20, 1937.
My mother and father were children during the Great Depression. The policies made by our government at that time had an enormous impact on their lives (and consequently mine) just as it did on the lives of millions of American citizens. The legacy that our government left through FDR was a legacy of hope and caring.
Pope Francis has called politics “one of the highest forms of charity because it serves the common good.” Last April he gave a TED Talk and said that “each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions”. He believes that is not only interactions with humans, but all things on our earth.
He goes on to say: “the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”
During these politically charged times, I urge all citizens, policy-makers, and lawmakers of our great nation, and all nations, to look deep in your heart and find the courage to interact with caring and tenderness. And to leave a legacy of hope and love for the future.
Melinda Corroto is executive director of Andrews House in Delaware.