“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” FDR, October 2, 1932
The Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017. As soon as I heard about plans for this march, shortly after the November elections, I knew I had to be a part of it. I wanted to be present for this historic event not only for myself but more for my daughters and for all of the women in my life. And not just for the women, but also for the oppressed and the downtrodden, the immigrants, the refugees, the minorities: the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, racial minorities…for so many whose voices are not always heard. For decency and respect. For righteousness, justice and truth.
So, off I went with my good friend Ana to Washington, D.C. We were so excited to be a part of this event. On that Saturday morning, we found ourselves crammed in amongst the other hundreds of thousands of people who had made their way to D.C. with similar intentions. In some ways it was a little frightening. For hours we were belly to butt and butt to belly with people we had never met and probably would never see again. We could hear perhaps a quarter of what was being said on the stage, but it didn’t really matter. The message was loud and clear, even if we couldn’t always hear the words. We were surrounded by people, people gathered for so many of the same reasons mentioned above. So much positive energy and so many happy souls surrounded us. So much love and peace united together. So much pure joy, warmth and contentment made the uncomfortably tight crowd so worth the trip.
Amazingly, for me, some of the most moving moments came on the following day, the Sunday after the March. Ana and I headed back into D.C. early that morning. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing – visiting as many of the monuments and memorials surrounding the National Mall that we could squeeze into one day. We got to town early, trying to beat some of the crowds we knew would have similar plans. I have been to DC several times in the past and have visited almost all of the monuments at least once. But today was different. One of the monuments in particular was incredibly moving for me, so much more so than on my previous visits: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial.
We arrived at the FDR Memorial around 9 a.m. It was a cool and cloudy morning, with grey skies and a light drizzle coming down. The crowds were still thin; many seemed to have chosen to sleep in on this morning. It felt as though we had the entire place to ourselves.
As I strolled through the memorial grounds and read many of the words spoken by FDR so many years ago (from 1932 to 1945), I was emotionally struck at how his messages are still so very relevant today:
“Among American citizens, there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races.” October 26, 1936
“I never forget that I live in a house owned by the American people and that I have been given their trust.” April 14, 1938
“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.” January 9, 1940
“We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” February 12, 1943
“Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another world war will remain as a constant threat to mankind.” February 12, 1943
“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.” March 1, 1945
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” Prepared for April 13, 1945
My initial reaction was one of deep sadness and fear. How could we have come so far since FDR’s presidency, and yet now it seems as though we are socially digressing, moving backwards in time, becoming a less civil, less tolerant, less peaceful, and less loving society?
I sat there on this cold and grey morning, surrounded by these awe-inspiring words. As I sat, more people began to arrive, taking in this beautiful memorial, and I began to rethink things. Yes, the days ahead may seem dark and difficult. Yes, right now our nation may not be headed on the path that I would have hoped for us. Yes, it seems like we are on a slippery slope moving away from what I see as righteous and just. But hold on for a moment…Was I not just surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people, gathered together to make sure all voices are heard loud and clear? Were there not similar sister groups gathered and marching all over our country? And all across the world? Have there not been hundreds of groups springing up not only in my town of Fort Collins, Colorado, but all over our great country, taking action and taking a stand to keep our country righteous and just?
We are not on a slippery slope; rather we are on a great wave moving forward! Opportunity has knocked in bizarre fashion, but the knock has woken up sleeping giants! I see and understand Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words and message not as a sad reminder of what could have been but as a solid reminder of how great our nation already is and how strong its people truly are!
So I will continue to march, continue to speak out, continue to stand beside those who need support and strength, continue to stand up for what I believe in. I will respect others’ opinions but I will forge ahead and take action for what I believe is righteous, just and true. And I invite you to join me on this journey.
“Freedom of speech…Freedom of worship…Freedom from want…Freedom from fear.” FDR January 6, 1941
Peace Siochá Paix~
Please visit this link for a list of all FDR’s quotes on display at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Joann Johnson is a mother, tennis coach, and justice-seeker.