Saturday, March 7, 2009

These are the Times that Try Men's Souls

With those famous words, Thomas Paine began his second-most famous paper, "The Crisis." The pamphlet was published at perhaps the darkest hour of the American Revolution, on December 23, 1776, at a time when Washington's Army was in disarray and popular support for armed insurrection against England was waining dramatically. American independence hung in the balance, and the world looked to see if the rag-tag assembly of disparate colonies could break away and establish a government based on the principles so eloquently articulated by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence.

So why the history lesson? Because I can see many parallels to the precarious economic situation we find ourselves in today. With the constant barrage of bad news in the media about troubles at institutions that we once felt were rock-solid, with our life savings cut in half in a matter of a few short months (did anybody get the license number on that truck that hit us?) and with nothing but hope -- forget about faith -- in our government's ability to "do something about it," many of us are feeling that we may have reached the end of the "American Century." Yes, these are, once again, the times that try men's souls.

But like Paine in 1776, I have no doubt in the spirit and ability of America to weather this storm and to rise above our present crisis.

We must all summon our "inner Chumbawumba" -- get knocked down; get up again. Show personal leadership wherever you can. This is no time for, as Paine labeled it "the summer soldier" and "the sunshine patriot" who "will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country."

Let me get completely out of the way and let Paine have the last word.

"We have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

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