Jeremi and Zachary Suri celebrate 100 episodes of This is Democracy by revisiting its foundations in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speeches. Zachary opens with his poem, “The Better Angels.”
- Jeremi SuriProfessor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
Announcers: This is Democracy. A podcast that explores the interracial, intergenerational and intersectional unheard voices living in the world’s most influential democracy.
Jeremi Suri: Welcome to our new episode of “This is Democracy.” This is a very special episode. Today, we are recording our 100th episode. We began this podcast in August of 2018, and here we are in June of 2020, and we’re on episode number 100. We’re going to talk about what we’ve learned, and we’re going to talk about Franklin Roosevelt in particular, who was the inspiration for this podcast, as we talked about in our first episode, if you go back and listen, and a figure who I think is even more important today than we realized in 2018. Zachary and I will talk about that today as we reflect on the lessons we’ve learned over 100 episodes about democracy and the possibilities for our troubled society to return to its democratic roots in coming weeks and months and years. Of course, to inspire that conversation, we always begin with another brilliant Zachary poem. This is, I believe his 97th or 98th poem for our 100th episode, Zachary Suri.
Zachary Suri: It’s entitled, “The Better Angels.” There was a nation, and supposedly they were the greatest generation. They flew in high-flying sky boats, died in slums across California, migrant hills, and they were housewives screwing in bolts, paying the bills. And they were the highest taxed, highest killed, most starving, most free willed. They were floating into recruiting offices, growing victory gardens in the rain, and they were hoarding rubber for the memory of the slain. They were the kids from the big city or small towns, high school dropouts, professors, and paper boys doing the rounds. From street corners and farms, they crossed the channel to find the corpses. Or they were the daughters of factory men, suffragettes in big band running to the airplane shells, the jeep assembly lines, keeping them manned.
But they were truly more than the myths when seen in the flesh. They were flawed Plebs raised in the aftermath of the corporate thieves with a sense of service not to freedom, not to a flag, not to vanity, but to humanity. They were Roosevelt’s characters in the book of democracy, suddenly aware of their role, their vital place in the bureaucracy. They were children from the boat docks, the bus station, the cornfield, the horse races, and they woke up one day knee deep in Normandy with bullets flying in their faces, or midnight on a box car rolling into California, dark, hungry, tired of hoboism and poverty. They came home when the bullets were done, and they loved, they lost, they won and they sent their kids off to Vietnam. But there they were, the faces hiding between the letters of liberty, the arms holding the torches of freedom, the Better Angels of suburban Philadelphia. And there they were, the masses behind Montague, the multitudes behind Madison, the people, the characters, the fears, the hopes, the lives, the deaths of democracy.
Jeremi Suri: That’s a very moving poem, Zachary, and it encapsulates so many of our themes in our podcast. What are the themes that jump out for you today, which themes did you emphasize the most?
Zachary Suri: I think that many people would be tempted to say, the perfection of the generation around FDR and surrounding the Great Depression and World War II, but I think it’s really the imperfection of that generation, all the suffering they went through, but yet how they were somehow able to maintain humanity and hope in the midst of it all. I think that’s what’s really compelling about this history for today and for people like me.
Jeremi Suri: What do you think allowed people to maintain this hope? What kept them focused, not on fear, but on improving their democracy. You refer to FDR’s statement about writing new chapters of democracy. Well, what did that mean for people as you look at it?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think that in these moments of major democratic change and when we have big crises that affect everyone in our democracy, the ideological facades slowly crumble away. I think what we’re really left with are new ideas and innovation that people weren’t willing to try yet. I think out of that also comes hope in humanity because there’s room for that.
Jeremi Suri: I think that’s so well said. One of the strengths of FDR’s model as a leader during depression and war was to embrace what he called bold, persistent experimentation. The possibilities of a democracy making itself and remaking itself, pursuing new paths, pursuing new opportunities, taking on new challenges, with a fiery commitment to reform and change. We opened our podcast 21 months ago, episode one, quoting these lines from Franklin Roosevelt. In 2018, when we first used these lines that I’m going to read and we’ll hear Roosevelt’s voice a bit, these lines seemed relevant today in the midst of a pandemic, an economic near depression, and evidence of police brutality and public anguish around that. In this moment, Roosevelt’s words seem not only relevant, they seem deeply urgent. Speaking in November of 1940, Roosevelt said, “This generation of Americans is living in a tremendous moment of history.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Is living in tremendous moment of history. The surge of events abroad has made some few doubters among us. Ask, is this the end of a story that has been told? Is the book of democracy now to be closed and placed away on the dusty shelves of time?
Franklin D. Roosevelt: You’re right. The answer is, no. My answer also is this, all we have known of the glories of democracy, it’s freedom, it’s efficiency as a mode of living, its ability to meet the aspirations of the common man, all of these are merely an introduction to the greater story of a more glorious future. We Americans today, all of us, we are characters in this living book of democracy. But we are also its authors. It falls upon us now to say whether the chapters to come will tell a story of retreat or a story of continued advance.
Jeremi Suri: As a young listener today, Zachary, hearing those words, what do they mean for you?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think what FDR is really telling us in this speech is that the institutions of democracy, and the institutions that are supposed to keep order in our society, they’re not stagnant, they’re ever-changing, and we all play a role in changing them. The government that we learn about in school is not going to be the same government that our kids will learn about 50 years later, and we need to recognize that. We need to recognize that democratic reform isn’t just necessary, it is normal. It happens, and it’s going to happen again.
Jeremi Suri: Built into that, Zachary, is of course, a sense of engagement and commitment and duty. Do you feel that those themes are evident today? Or have we forgotten? Have we lost our way? Our podcast has covered so many topics with so many people who are committed to environmental change, urban reform, military reform, school reform. Is that energy evident to you as you look out at our society today?
Zachary Suri: I think it’s more evident than it has ever been in the past 50 years. I think right now we’re at a moment of extreme friction in our society. But I think that allows us an opportunity for great progress and great reform. That’s what people across the country are showing us now as they protect themselves and their neighbors from the virus or protest police mistreatment of minorities.
Jeremi Suri: I think of all the people we’ve had on our podcast, all the wonderful guests who have brought such energy, what’s extraordinary is it’s never hard for us to bring guests on. There are so many people doing exciting things, especially young people who want to talk about the exciting work they’re doing. I think that’s one of the most optimistic and energizing parts of what we’ve seen over these 100 episodes. Do you agree, Zachary?
Zachary Suri: Yes. I think what’s really amazing about our podcast is that we’re able to bring together so many perspectives with many different opinions and many different backgrounds, and yet they all seem to have one core theme, and that is hope and change, and I think that’s what’s really coming through in this moment in our history.
Jeremi Suri: Well, the seminal text in many ways in modern American society, and probably in modern world society, for thinking about hope in a time of despair, and many of you might be feeling that despair today. Again, when we started this podcast, we knew this was relevant. But the depth of despair that Franklin Roosevelt had to confront in his time has been mimicked or close to mimicked in our time today, we’ve come so close to some of the suffering and some of the tragedy that Franklin Roosevelt’s generation experienced. We never thought 21 months ago we would see our society go so low. But in this low moment, maybe we are most clearly in Franklin Roosevelt’s territory. The core text for thinking about hope is in many ways Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address, where he announces what a new presidency after a presidency of despair, after a presidency of negligence, after a presidency of in some ways, callous indifference, what a new, more caring, hopeful presidency would look like. At his inauguration, 4th of March, 1933, Roosevelt said, “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the presidency.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Expect that 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, 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 effort to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of 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 this critical day.
Jeremi Suri: Roosevelt is creating hope, not from false empty promises, but from a rejection of the despair that can only come with the promotion of fear. We live in a fearful society today. Our podcast has been in many ways about recapturing hope. By looking back at how our societies evolve, we can see all the hopeful things we’ve done and all the reasons for hope moving forward. Where do you see hope today, Zachary? What gives you hope? What have you taken from our podcast episodes about hope for our democracy?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think what really gives me hope is the great diversity of our society, not just of opinions or of race, but of circumstance, and I think what’s going to be really important these next few years and these next few decades is how many different voices and how many different perspectives, young people and old people alike bring to the table of our political discussions. I think that’s really powerful, and that’s what’s going to make us the next great country of the 22nd century.
Jeremi Suri: I think it’s extraordinary how we’ve seen through our podcast, the role that local leaders often play in creating hope, the role that students can play, the role that innovators can play, and the role that national leaders can play. We’ve had figures on who have held federal office, who have held state office, many who’ve held city office. We’ve had teachers, we’ve had administrators, we’ve had intellectuals, and what’s so interesting is that the hope that they bring, it seems to me, doesn’t come from success. Many of them don’t always succeed in their endeavors. It comes from the effort, the honesty, the authenticity, and the belief that we all can be better. Looking deep within ourselves, it seems to me that’s what leadership is about and that’s what democracy is about. What do you think today, drawing on this history, Zachary, would most resonate with people in creating hope? Because so many people, so many of our listeners, I know, are feeling worn down, are feeling despair. Where are the sources of hope today? What jumps out at you from all the conversations we’ve had on this podcast?
Zachary Suri: I think what’s really powerful in what we’ve seen in recent Zoom programs and things like that, like the national graduation ceremony put together by LeBron James, is finding a story that we can all come together around. We need a great storyteller to bring us out of our ordinary lives and our ordinary suffering to make it about something bigger, and I think that’s where hope comes from. Hope comes from recognizing the problem, but also recognizing the great possibilities that we have to change.
Jeremi Suri: What kind of storytelling? Because your poems are stories of a sort. What is it that makes someone an effective storyteller? We’ve had so many examples on our podcast.
Zachary Suri: I think what we need today is a storyteller who can really bridge the bounds of many different perspectives and many different voices. Someone who’s authentic, who goes beyond ideology, a story that brings us together in hope, but also in a practical recognition of our problems and how we can fix them. I think one of the key words here is experimentation. We need to make sure that we’re not just trying one solution or another, but that we’re trying all sorts of solutions and all sorts of stories, and I think that’s where technology helps us today. If we had this pandemic 20 or 30 years ago, we wouldn’t have the same opportunities, and we can’t let those opportunities go to waste today.
Jeremi Suri: Do you think, Zachary, that built into that experimentation is an addition to diversity, also a willingness to fail? What’s interesting is about many of the guests we’ve had in the podcast are people who have tried many things, that they’re not always doing what was their first career endeavor. Is failure necessary, and how do we learn to become willing to fail rather than not trying at all, which is sometimes, I think, what we confront today?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think that a recognition of the possibility of failure and of it being okay to fail rather than do nothing is something that’s going to be very important. I think that something that our young people understand very well. I think one thing our education system does very well today is teaching people that failure is okay and that experimentation is important whether we fail or succeed. I think right now we have a real opportunity to do that outside of politics and outside of government even because no one has anything to lose. This is a moment where we may be at rock bottom but we have so many different possibilities that we can explore now that wouldn’t have been possible 10 months ago.
Jeremi Suri: I think there’s a lot to that. That in a moment of challenge, we have nothing to lose by trying something new and maybe experimentation is most possible when we’re least complacent, which might be our moment today. Necessity can encourage us to think more broadly and many of those we’ve had on our show have done that in many different spaces; urban, state, federal, non-governmental, educational, labor, many places rethinking what it means to be a worker. Rethinking what it means to be a student, rethinking what it means to be a parent, a citizen and at the core of all that is an understanding of freedom. Freedom is one of those words, just like democracy that we throw around without defining very much and one of the challenges when you use a concept without defining it, is it can become meaningless and it can be used actually for its opposite. You can have people claiming they’re defending freedom when they’re really destroying it. People claiming they’re for democracy when they’re really undermining it. It’s important as citizens to know that these terms have histories and to use that history to define what it means to hold ourselves to the highest standards and to create integrity in the way we use our words, and to use the integrity of those words to demand changes and action that follow the values associated with them. Our podcast has shown that democracy has so many valuable meanings in it. But these meanings are substantive and specific. They are not platitudes and it is understanding and holding ourselves to the meaning of those words rather than throwing them out in tweets, that we make our democracy something more than just a set of words. Franklin Roosevelt was very clear on this as well. In early 1941, while the United States was still coming out of depression, after Nazi Germany had conquered France, after the Japanese fascist regime had conquered much of East Asia, particularly parts of China. Franklin Roosevelt looked out at a very dangerous world and he realized that the United States, if it was going to make a difference in war and not in war, it would have to have a clear program and definition of freedom. We could not be for democracy without defining what freedom meant in a democracy. Because the fascist regimes claimed they were more democratic. They claimed they were more representative. They claimed they were better governments. We had to show that our government was truly about freedom, that our model was truly about freedom, and that there had to be substance to that. In one of the most important statements about what freedom in a democracy means, words and concepts that we’ve through all of our episodes. Franklin Roosevelt in January 1941, announced what he called the four freedoms.
Franklin Roosevelt: In the future days, which we seek to make secure. We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedom. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which translated into world term, means economic understanding which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which translated into world term, means a worldwide reduction of armament to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world.
Jeremi Suri: Franklin Roosevelt makes it crystal clear. Freedom is about speech and expression. Freedom is about the ability to worship whichever god you choose or none at all. Freedom is about having access to basic needs, freedom from want, and freedom is about having hope and not living in fear; freedom from fear. Freedom of speech, worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Many of you might have seen the famous Norman Rockwell depictions of these freedoms. These were freedoms that were personal, freedoms that were societal, freedoms that were tangible for people and Americans knew what they meant when they said they wanted to live in a free society because they knew what these meanings were, what freedom meant in these terms. These didn’t cover everything. Racism was still ever-present, sexism, many other forms of exclusion. But nonetheless, these four freedoms provided a foundation for thinking about what democracy means. Zachary, as a young person today and having listened to all these episodes we’ve done, which have been about one component of this matrix of freedom or another, do you think these four freedoms still define what freedom means and should mean for Americans today?
Zachary Suri: I think that even today, these four freedoms are radical because they define freedom not as some word that we throw around about getting to do what we want, but actually as a responsibility, an obligation to provide humanity and basic human rights for everyone. I think that’s something we have to remember in our political discourse moving forward from this moment. Something that is hard to talk about, something that isn’t easy to do. But I think it’s something that’s very important if we’re going to have a stable, healthy, and humane world in the coming years.
Jeremi Suri: One of the key elements of these four freedoms, I think, is also recognizing that there are many actors involved. To say we’re a free society is not to rely on one set of actors alone. The brilliance of that speech is that it doesn’t put the onus just on the president or just on a group of citizens, but on everyone. These freedoms are part of a larger cultural matrix as well as a political matrix, and they are about what the great philosopher Isaiah Berlin called negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom which is freedom from people doing things to you; my freedom of speech is my freedom from you taking it away just because you don’t like what I say. And positive liberties, the right to gain access to certain things. Freedom from want, access to the resources I need to succeed. Freedom from fear, access to the sources of security in my life that will allow me to be free of fear. This broader definition of freedom is not socialist or capitalist. It’s humanitarian fundamentally and many historians and many of our guests have talked about human rights.
Jeremi Suri: Human rights as Michael Morgan, Samantha Power, and many of our other guests have described are about a fundamental belief that all human beings are entitled to certain forms of freedom and certain bases of treatment, that no political ideology, no party, and even no circumstance, really, justifies their repeated and consistent deprivation or harm. We sometimes as a society, forget that. Our partisanship, and this is not new to today which is true in Franklin Roosevelt’s time, our partisanship can lead us to choose sides and forget our values. Franklin Roosevelt’s words and the point of this podcast over 100 episodes has been to remind us that values come first. You cannot be an effective actor for democracy if you forget the values of democracy that have to underpin everything that you do. It seems to me this is one of our biggest challenges today. What are your thoughts about that, Zachary?
Zachary Suri: I think the humanitarian nature of freedom means much more than just the basic human rights of being able to live freely, but also things like health care, and freedom from fear in regards to the police, or in regards to crime. I think that something that we don’t understand, that these freedoms are embedded in basic policy decisions that aren’t in constitutional amendments or in the Bill of Rights. These are things that every decision that we make as a society, as a community, no matter how small are affected by freedom and need to uphold these freedoms.
Jeremi Suri: How do you think about that, and this is a challenge we face today that we’ve talked about in the podcast. In a world where there’s a pandemic, for example, and we’re asking people to stay home, is that depriving them of freedom? Are there ways in which pursuing freedom sometimes requires sacrifice? Is that built into what Franklin Roosevelt is talking about, and how do we understand that? Because he’s not saying you can do whatever you want whenever you want. That’s not part of his Four Freedoms, nor is he saying someone else can tell you what to do. How do we understand that space in between? How do we understand asking people to stay home during a pandemic, or asking people to stay off the streets during a period of lack of safety, or asking certain people not to treat others in certain ways and use certain words that are offensive? How do we understand that Zachary?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think this is key to what Roosevelt is saying about freedom, because he isn’t saying that freedom is about what you get to do, it’s about what you have to do for others. I think that this is a very misguided definition of freedom that we learned in school, that freedom is this thing guaranteed by the Constitution that we are ordained with, that we just get to do what we want, say what we want, but no, freedom is about what our obligation is, that we have an obligation to sacrifice what might be the best thing for us, or what we might want to do for the good of others and for the humanitarian cause of democracy. That’s really at the center of what Roosevelt was saying.
Jeremi Suri: I think that’s great. I think what you’ve hit on, Zachary, is something that many scholars of Roosevelt have talked about, and of course what a number of our guests have talked about, which is the relationship between the individual and society. Roosevelt is talking about personal freedom. Personal freedom in the context of a larger community. We have the freedom to make choices over our lives and live certain ways, but not to live as islands. We have interdependent relationships, we have obligations to those around us, and to be a free person is to articulate our needs and wants with respect for those around us. In fact, we are less free if we are disrespectful of those around us, as many of our guests have pointed out, because if we’re disrespectful of those around us, they will be disrespectful of us and that will narrow our world.
Jeremi Suri: A wider space of freedom comes from a wider engagement in respectful interactions with other people, which means I am free to say what I wish to say, but a free person will speak in ways that are respectful to others who might disagree, even if they continue to disagree. I am free to demand a secure society and secure myself, but if I build high walls around myself and I close myself off, I am actually becoming less secure as I’m isolating myself. Security, expression, worship, freedom, the very basis for what Roosevelt is talking about. These Four Freedoms are about individual choice in relationship to the interests, needs, and choices of others. It’s about an interrelated community of free-acting individuals, not individuals acting in isolation, but in community.
Jeremi Suri: We sometimes get into trouble when we use the market as our only metaphor, and this is a point that’s come up in our podcast many times. Markets are important to our society. They help to determine supply and demand, they help to determine innovative qualities, but as the business people we have had on our podcasts have pointed out, the Robert Campbell’s, the Brett Hurt’s, and many others, these super successful business people understand that being a business leader is doing something that is more than market profitable, something that is also benefiting many others, something that provides a relationship to increase the opportunities for freedom for more actors. Freedom is relational, freedom is communal, and freedom is not about isolation. That’s at the core of what Roosevelt is talking about. This came up in your poem also Zachary, right? Can you say a little more about that?
Zachary Suri: Well, I think that this is certainly a major theme of my poem that I read today, and that is that the people of Roosevelt’s generation, the people who we often called the Greatest Generation, were not the Greatest Generation because they were free in the sense of they could say what they wished or they could go where they wished, but they were free in the sense that everyone was provided for at least at the bare minimum, that humanity was the standard. I think this also comes through when we look at the business world at the time. I think the markets are a reflection of society. They are not separate from society. They don’t give us freedom themselves. We have to endow them with freedom. I think what’s really powerful about this moment is looking at how heavily-taxed and how heavily this generation served in public service. I think that that’s something that’s really resonant for today, and it’s really important. I think we can all agree on that public service and that paying our fair share is something that’s going to be very important if we’re going to rebuild our democracy.
Jeremi Suri: That’s so beautifully said, Zachary. One of the themes, I think that’s been in pretty much every one of our 100 episodes is this notion of service. Free people, believers in a democracy, they show their democratic merit, they show their freedom in the service they do to others as well as themselves. The notion of public service is not about padding your resume, it’s about showing that you believe in a free society and enhancing your freedom in helping the freedom of others. There’s an element of sacrifice in that, but there’s also an element of enlightened self-interest. Service is at the core of freedom. It’s at the core of everything Roosevelt represented in his time, and everything that generation, often called the Greatest Generation as Zachary said, that that generation manifests. They had many problems, that generation, many limitations, but they had a deeply ingrained sense of service and a sense of limits. There were limits to what you would acquire, limits to how high you would build your walls, because you had to make sure your home was in the service of others, not just yourself. That you were serving other people in the expression of your freedom as well as yourself.
Jeremi Suri: There’s no greater example of that than the brave Americans who fought at home and abroad to protect our society during the Depression and World War II. Many of these brave Americans were African American, former plantation residents. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren of slaves who moved north to work in factories to build munitions. Many were of different races. White, African American, Latino, Asian American, many from different ethnic backgrounds, who went into the military. Many were women and children at home who not only worked in the factories but kept society functioning. They believed in something larger than themselves. Again, they were far from perfect. They had their own selfishness. They had their own racial limitations. They had their own prejudices, but they also believe that as free people they had to do service. They had to show their service to their country.
Jeremi Suri: On June 6 of 1944, 76 years ago today, a group of these Americans undertook one of the most harrowing, difficult, and most important military operations in the history of the modern world. Crossing the English Channel from Great Britain onto the European continent to dislodge Nazi forces in northern France. There had only been really one major military to successfully cross the English Channel in the last 1,000 years. That was William the Conqueror in 1066. In 1944, the Anglo-American forces under General Dwight Eisenhower did this again. It was not clear whether they would succeed. They all had to contemplate the chances that they would die at sea or coming onto land. One of the hardest military maneuvers to this day is to go from sea to land to make an amphibious assault. These young Americans and Brits and Canadians had to consider what they would give up for their country.
Jeremi Suri: Franklin Roosevelt didn’t glorify them as warriors. He didn’t claim that they were great because they were Americans. He didn’t say their freedom was in their ability to use lots of force, big machine guns and things of that sort. Their democracy was in their belief in something larger than themselves and their willingness to serve that. On June 6, 1944, 76 years ago, Roosevelt came on the radio to call upon Americans to pray, not as sectarians, not as flagrant Bible belters. He wasn’t trying to wear religion on his sleeve. He wasn’t claiming that he was better because he was religious. He wasn’t appealing to the false vanity of those who believe they can show they were chosen by God. Instead, he was calling for humility and a collective prayer across religions for better human beings, for freedom and action as a model for freedom in society. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer, as it’s called, speaks to us today, I think as strongly as any set of words. Zachary insisted that we use this, and it’s interesting that as a young American, he sees the resonance. As a young American who’s never served in the military, Zachary yet sees the resonance of these words today. Franklin Roosevelt said,
Franklin Roosevelt: Our sons, pride of our nation. This day I have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and cruel, give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need thy blessings. Their role will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong, he may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again. We know that by thy grace and by the righteousness of our course, our sons will triumph.
Jeremi Suri: Roosevelt’s not promising easy victory. He’s not promising that things will go our way. He’s promising instead that we believe in a set of values, in a view of freedom and in a set of democratic practices that are larger than all of us and that when faced with enormous odds at home and abroad, all we can do is fight on, fight harder for what we believe, return, they can push us out, but we must return and stay true to our values. For those of our listeners deeply dismayed by the evidence of racism, the evidence of brutality, the evidence of inequality, corruption, vanity, and narcissism in our society, we must not give in to the worst impulses to either look away or to destroy. We must embrace the long journey. Embrace the struggle to preserve our republic. To go out and demand better. To go out and register more voters. To go out and make our voices heard. To go out and call out the bad behavior. To go out and demand the resources; demand the representation, and display the values that we believe in.
This is the struggle we are in today. This is the struggle our podcast has been about. We didn’t fully understand it when we started the struggle and started the podcast. But as we’ve gone from episode to episode, we’ve seen not only greater relevance in what we talk about but greater urgency, a greater need to remember what our democracy is about, to live it humbly, but also stoutly, as Roosevelt said, and to remind others, in our words and our actions. Our history is not a formula for success, it is the inspiration and reminder of who we are, what we have been, and what we can become. Zachary will close us off with his thoughts and then we will be back next week with another episode on another topic in our democracy. Zachary.
Zachary Suri: I think what really comes through so clearly in these words that we’ve heard from both you and from FDR is that patriotism and humanity means much, much more than the simple catchwords that we throw out. It means committing ourselves to larger causes. The cause of humanity. The cause of humanitarian ventures overseas and at home, between races, between religions and between states and between communities. I think that’s what’s really going to guide us in the coming years. That’s something that our young people will learn so clearly from this moment of strife that we’re in right now.
Jeremi Suri: Thank you for joining us for this very special 100th episode of “This is Democracy.”
Announcer 1: This podcast is produced by the Liberal Arts Development Studio and the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.
Announcer 2: The music in this episode was written and recorded by Harrison Lemke, and you can find his music at harrisonlemke.com.
Announcer 3: Subscribe and stay tuned for a new episode every Thursday featuring new perspectives on democracy.