Lessons from the Great Depression

America today is adrift, looking for answers. Tragedy is all around us, and yet we do not see that history has answers, if we just look.


ST LOUIS, June 16, 2016 – America today is adrift, looking for answers. Tragedy is all around us, and yet we do not see that history has answers, if we just look.

Those of us who lived through the 1930s witnessed tremendous suffering, but also amazing courage and strength.

Unemployment and poverty characterized the 1930s in this country, dominating the lives of many. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, offering a “new deal” for Americans through a wide-ranging recovery program. Dust storms in the Midwestern states starting in 1933 forced many farmers to abandon their lands and move on.

In Europe, political turmoil led to the rise of the extremely nationalist and racist Nazi Party in Germany. The end of the decade saw the onset of the Second World War within 25 years.

Despite the negatives, there were also some bright spots. The Empire State Building was constructed, putting an army of laborers to work; the opening of a nationwide bus service provided by the Greyhound Company; the offering of federal aid to the Dust Bowl states; and the forming of a national farm policy.

Most importantly, there was faith, family, community and love of country. For the survivors of the traumatic thirties the stage was set for better times to come. Those who lived through that difficult time learned a positive “yes we can” attitude. The trauma they endured shaped the character of those living through it.

The Magna Carta still stands as a foundation for freedom

With the difficulties America faces today, it makes sense to talk to those who lived through the 1930s and to learn their lessons.

Survivors of the 1930s know you have to work to earn money. During the Depression, the government stepped in and offered support, but no one wanted a hand-out. The goal was to get a job – building the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building or other infrastructure. True pride comes with a paycheck, not a welfare check.

Seniors understand we live in a great country. Sure, there are problems, but America is the greatest country in the world, and deserves our respect. During the Depression, patriotism still ran high, and everyone was proud of the Stars and Stripes. We never thought of disgracing the American flag by burning it or trampling on it. America today needs to regain that patriotism, that love of country, and to understand that whatever trials and tribulations we face, the United States is the single greatest country in the world. America: Love it or leave it.

The Depression taught us money doesn’t grow on trees. It was disgraceful to owe money, and we worked hard to repay debt. If you owe someone money, you pay it back. This is a lesson our politicians, and our society, doesn’t seem to understand. A trillion dollar deficit isn’t just something on paper, it’s a debt. Very simply: don’t buy what you can’t pay for.

We know from World War II (and World War I), that our military is our guarantor of the freedoms and liberties so important to America. Instead of forcing them to scrimp and cannibalize parts, we need to back them and support them. Their morale is critical to their effectiveness as a fighting force. While we downsize, China and Russia expand. North Korea threatens. And of course, there is terrorism. Our military men and women put their lives on the line every day, and deserve our support. Take whatever action is necessary to support our military. Without our armed forces, we are weak and vulnerable.

Unified, we are strong, divided, we are weak. America is being destroyed from within. The outside threat is bad enough, but when we look at what is happening domestically, it is terrible. We are a divided people, angry and upset. Our politicians try to keep those divisions so they can win some pyrrhic victory that does nothing to help our country. We must elect a leader who understands that leadership is not about personal goals, it is about putting the interest of our country and our citizens above individual careers.

For many, the Depression was very long ago, and they have forgotten its lessons. Before we face another traumatic time in our history, we must revisit those lessons and learn. We must move forward to avoid tragedy.

However, that’s from a time and place I am from.

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