Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 11/17/2008 [Archive]

A Kinder Gentler DC

A Kinder, Gentler D.C.

By Martha Randolph Carr

Cycles in D.C. politics sometimes last for a generation, sometimes only for the first 100 days of a new presidential term. Right now, politicians from both sides of the aisle are working a little harder to play nice with each other. Perhaps the partisan comments have been dropped because the changeover is historic with the election of the first African American president and the post-election camaraderie has managed to linger over a surprise that we were able to come together without recounts or riots.

Or maybe it's because the economic challenges are so dire and without definable boundaries just yet.

Unlike last spring when some economists were still predicting a rosier bottom line for the winter, everyone has now caught on to the sobering reality that it is going to take throwing out the old monetary paradigms to ease ourselves, and the world economy we're now tied to, back into the black. No one has a lasting answer just yet.

In any case, Bush is going beyond just being polite to his successor and welcoming him into the White House with open arms and no missing computer keys. That's a change from when Bush's people arrived and all of the W's were missing while Clinton's people expressed only surprise and dismay at the caper. Even Karl Rove has begrudgingly mumbled nice things, at least about President -- Elect Obama while Obama has made it clear that for another 60 days Bush is the only President of the United States.

In the past, whether or not a trend had any legs underneath it often had to do with current economic conditions and the will of the administration to keep repeating itself, regardless of any reality check.

FDR walked into the office in 1932 during a crippling economy that garnered its own title, The Great Depression with 13,000,000 unemployed and almost every bank closed. That was mixed with the Dust Bowl phenomenon in which we lost millions of tons of topsoil and WWII, which redrew the world maps and swept in communism. Sweeping changes in governmental policy were put into place such as Social Security or welfare, which over time came to be seen as rights. In reality, both were actually policy changes and as we saw with welfare and communism, even the most entrenched ideas sometimes fade away.

To get everyone to work together FDR started making weekly radio addresses, fireside chats, where he talked about ways for people to be of service and reminded us that this too shall pass. His focus was on whatever bright light he was able to seek out for that week. The American people responded by buying bonds, volunteering in government and saving essentials such as rubber and began to see themselves as part of a solution rather than captives on a sinking ship.

There were plenty of commentators who thought that was crazy and said so often but FDR's administration was given very clear marching orders to keep repeating the company motto. We are a great nation in very tough circumstances that require all of us to pull together in order to see ourselves through the worst of it.

There was never any doubt expressed about what choice the citizens would make; it was more like we were being given a set of guidelines we were expected to follow. In other words, it was assumed we were capable and so that's how we came to see ourselves.

Jump ahead to 2009 and a few new realities that could make this an even finer moment for all of us. Civil rights are more extensive and enforced in voting, housing and the workplace. The internet has made it possible to more easily communicate new ideas or even solutions and to ask or offer assistance to others around the globe. It's harder for a dictator to spread propaganda and it's easier for a stranger to offer compassion.

Chances are there will be some who will encourage friction and polarization over politics but we can all take a breath and respond, rather than react, or ignore the arm waving altogether. We the people of the United States of America can come together, once again, to form an even more perfect union where everyone can listen, compromise, collaborate and be counted on to be a part of the solution. It will be a constant choice over the coming months and maybe even years to ask ourselves what is to be gained from outrage and more importantly, what is to be lost.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit Martha will be speaking on January 27th, 2009 at the annual United Way of Canton Ohio dinner. Open to the public.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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