I was at a Sunday gathering at my Uncle Roy’s home in Philadelphia in 1941 and was struck when everyone suddenly grew quiet. The radio was on and everybody was suddenly listening to it. When I asked what was happening, Roy’s wife Isabel told me the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. I was in first grade at the time and had no idea who the Japanese were, or what Pearl Harbor was. A few months later I became seriously upset with the Japanese and the Germans because Wildwood, where we used to go every year on summer vacation, had effectively closed down because of submarine sightings. We were done with the seashore.
In October, 1962, the United States confronted another threat that was even more serious: the Cuban missile crisis had gotten underway and, for awhile, it looked as if we were on the verge of a nuclear exchange. I can remember going to bed wondering whether the world would disappear overnight. Ultimately, President Kennedy was able to maneuver us through it. Nikita Khrushchev had no more desire for a conflagration than we did and apparently JFK understood that. The Soviet missiles were removed.
The lessons in both these events suggested how important it was to have a responsible and intelligent president. There was no way FDR could have avoided World War II other than by caving in. And I suspect we have a pretty good idea how that would have played out. So we took on the war, paid the price, and got the best outcome.
Putting a talented individual in the White House isn’t always easy. In fact, because of our system it isn’t even always possible. But there is one point: citizens have an obligation to look closely at the nominees, to make a choice based on their apparent capabilities, and to vote. Do not stay home.