28/52: Courage & Confidence
In light of the significant challenges we're all facing, Paul Murphy, our Managing Director last week said he'd like to update our values to reflect these 'Covid Times'. We got the team together and after a fairly quick discussion, settled on Paul's initial suggestion: "Courage, Confidence and Comradery*". I felt very comfortable with these values and thought they reflected our need to be strong whilst continuing to look out for each other. You can imagine my surprise when only the next day, I heard these words in my podcast from an old radio speech.
"Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 12 March 1933
What led FDR to say these words? What challenges required such confidence and courage? This led me to do a bit of research to find out what it was all about:
In 1932 America was on its knees following modern history's most dramatic collapse of the global financial system, now known as the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover had lost the support and belief of the people and something drastic needed to happen to save not only their livelihoods, but indeed many lives. That something was the 'New Deal' - a plan put in place by America's freshly elected President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR, set about a plan to initially relieve the financial burden for Americans and in his first 100 days, set up no less than 14 new Federal Government agencies to achieve this feat. In his inaugural speech President Roosevelt famously said:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Just prior to FDR's inauguration, the American people had made a run on the banks with literally tens of thousands of people withdrawing their life savings. Banks themselves were at imminent risk of closure and the backbone of the American economy was at risk. In his first 48 hours, the new President ordered a 'bank holiday', called an emergency session of Congress and passed the Emergency Banking Act of 1933. In the days that followed he executed a plan that saw all banks assessed and financial guarantees offered to support those banks that were considered viable.
The day before the banks were due to reopen, President Roosevelt held his first 'fireside chat' - a regular occurrence throughout his presidency. During this radio broadcast, he reached an audience of more than 60 million people, to tell them in clear language "what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be". The result was immediate and upon the opening of the banks more than half of the withdrawals were returned to the banking sector, avoiding a further economic disaster.
Over the next 12 years, until his death in 1945, FDR didn't have it easy. He faced enormous criticisms of his New Deal and Second New Deal and in 1937/38 had to fight a Recession within a Depression. In 1939 the Second World War began and on December 7th 1941, Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese, launching the Americans into an all-out war across multiple continents. I think we can agree that FDR's four terms in office were not a cakewalk and that he must have been a very special individual for a unique period in history.
For a man who was afflicted by polio and confined to a wheelchair (and ironically afraid of fire considering his fireside chats), it could be argued nothing was particularly easy for him. Yet, through courage and confidence (and quality communication), FDR led America through one of its most tumultuous periods into a period of prosperity and ground-breaking success on almost every front. As a side note, check out the support offered for the Arts by the dubiously-named Federal Project Number One as part of the New Deal.
So as we enter lockdown for a second time here in Victoria and spirits plummet, I urge everyone to look to the heroes of our past and recognise that throughout history, people have overcome the odds. Whatever your situation, I wish you the best and encourage you to remember that with courage and confidence (and some quality communication please politicians!), we'll get through this together.
* NB: Comradery or Camaraderie? A blog for another time maybe!