"Here are Roosevelt and Churchill for inspiration."
On Monday, July 27, President Duterte will be delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). Given the current state of global affairs, this may, from all indications, turn out to be his presidency’s most critical and most challenging address to the nation and to the world.
He may be as expansive and directional as then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was when he delivered his first inaugural address in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. Or, he may be as brief and unequivocal as then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was when he summoned the British people to action during the Second World War. Either way, it is clear that he will have to shore up our people’s hopes and ensure their utmost in getting us out of the pandemic we are in right now. It is an effort which most experts liken to summoning the nation to prepare for war and in so doing emerge victorious.
Experts have likened the present situation to the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in US history which started with the crash of its stock market in October 1929 and abated only towards the end of the 1930s. By mid-November the stock market had lost a third of its September value and by 1932 – when the market hit bottom – stocks had lost 90 percent of their value. The stock market had lost a third of its value in three months.
That crash cascaded all the way to other sections of the economy including banks leading to massive unemployment affecting 25 percent of the workforce by 1933.
Of course, our situation is not yet as bad as that of the US in 1933. Neither are we in the middle of a war as Britain was during Churchill’s time. But given the continuing spike in our infections and our inability to inspire confidence in our capacity to handle any further degradation of our health situation we may as well consider ourselves in the same conundrum as them.
The President can start off with President Roosevelt’s famous line “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” contained in his first inaugural address spoke of candor, clarity of vision and direction out of the depression and the need for citizens and enterprises to be harnessed back to productive endeavors. The impact of Roosevelt’s call was such that he got Americans invigorated and ready to sacrifice and rebuild in no time at all. Said Roosevelt:
“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to “fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”
Churchill’s call was even more emphatic as expected as they were in the middle of war under heavy bombardment from the Germans. Said the fighting Prime Minister:
“In this crisis I think I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today, and I hope that any of my friends and colleagues or former colleagues who are affected by the political reconstruction will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act.
I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terrors — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward toward his goal.
I take up my task in buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. I feel entitled at this juncture, at this time, to claim the aid of all and to say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."
These hopeful and fighting words essayed in the middle of crisis can very well energize the nation and summon our people to work, united in purpose and dedication, to reach out of the near abyss we are in to greater heights. No doubt, we will be able to do so with the grace and blessings of the Almighty as President Duterte himself said some days back.