When Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined those words to alert to American people that the Japanese had attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor and dealt what might have been a crippling blow to America’s ability to defend itself against occupation, I doubt if he envisioned that five generations and less than seventy-five years later few school-aged children would commemorate or even remember the date.
I doubt also if he could have envisioned that, what Tom Brokaw would call “The Greatest Generation”, could possibly rise to the occasion to put an end to the conflict in less than four years. My parents were part of that generation; my father enlisted as a Navy dentist at the age of forty-one. As I look back on the war years my memory is of general acceptance of sacrifice. Saving sugar stamps for birthday cakes, saving gasoline stamps for special trips, sharing with others so all could have a semblance of order in a chaotic time.
I recently saw the movie “The Road”, an adaptation of a bestselling piece of fiction by Cormac McCarthy. Some of you may have seen the screen adaptation of another of his dark novels, “No Country for Old Men”, which had much better distribution and acclaim. McCarthy paints a picture of a different kind of world, where selfishness is the norm and the moral road is not maintained. After seeing the movie, I needed a counterpoint and so ordered a new biography titled “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Ms. Hillenbrand is a fascinating author whose earlier book “Seabiscuit” also was made into a popular film in 2003. Her characters portray the best in people, and the hero of “the Unbroken” Louis Zamperini is larger-than-life inspirational.
Probably most of us, if we are truthful with ourselves, lie between these two extremes, of selfishness and selflessness most days, showing the extremes on rare occasions, but I can’t help but reflect on days that for me commemorate more than just a date, how much we can learn from those who went before us.
If only we stop and do the reflecting.
Please comment if you share my feeling.