by Kathie England

The Choices We Make

Shortly before her death in 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:

“The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves.”

I discovered Roosevelt’s quote in the November 12, 2018 issue of TIME magazine’s article titled “When Leadership Fails.” This article by Jon Meacham is from his new book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.
The title of Meacham’s book was inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, described by historian Jill Lepore in her book These Truths to be the most eloquent inaugural address in American history.
Lincoln hoped that the dispute over slavery could be resolved by debate rather than by war.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Lincoln continued with the wish that “the mystic cords of memory…will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Meacham states, “My own view is that we must attempt, insofar as possible, to focus our civic energy not on the President’s heart and mind – these seem a lost cause – but on our own. The nature of a republic is shaped by the mysterious and complicated interplay between the leaders and the led, and experience and philosophy teach us that popular governments often mirror as much as they mold who we are.”
As we celebrate many victories in the recent midterms, may we each keep this perspective – we must focus our energy on our own heart and mind to make choices that grow out of our ideas, beliefs, values, and dreams.

Happy Thanksgiving!