by Holly Guss

In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. These words were meant to engender confidence in government at a time when the United States was suffering through the economic crisis of the Great Depression. However, since the 1930s, FDR’s words have been used to inspire people facing all manner of struggles, anxieties, and crises. In fact, this line has become synonymous with courage.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, I will admit that I have been in a constant state of fear. I fear the next move of these new leaders who do not see themselves in the people they govern. I fear that their isolationist policies will lead to more hatred and violence in our communities. I fear for the future of public education in an economy that values competition and profit over the lives of children. I fear that families will be torn apart by policies like border walls and immigration bans. I fear that our black and brown students will internalize the racist messages they hear and see all around them. I fear that families like mine will lose the legal rights finally granted to them.

Yes. I am fearful. But FDR’s quote above doesn’t bring me much peace. Sometimes the fear is so great it feels as if I can’t escape, so how can I have nothing to fear? Later in his career, FDR also said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” This quote rings far more true for me than the first.

I believe it is true that to have courage does not mean that I am not afraid. I can be afraid, but I can still act. I can fight through this fear – I can resist it’s pull. I can declare with all my words and actions that love is more powerful than fear. I must do this. We all must do this. Together, we can become a courageous and powerful people.


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