The preparation of our hearts, the arming of our hearts

How can we celebrate a holiday at a time like this? Roosevelt and Churchill asked the same question on Christmas Eve, 1941.

Next week my company takes off for our annual Summer Recess, which you know is is official because we capitalize it.

A lot of people I know aren’t taking lots of time off this year, some of them saying they don’t want to celebrate this Independence Day. It feels like a year of shame and sadness and embarrassment for America. I feel that, too.

But in another sense, I have a hard time feeling quite that way, surrounded as I am by so many good friends, such a loving family and, pretty much every single workday since New Year’s, the most noble, faithful, diligent, generous, sensible people in the whole world: my colleagues, Benjamine Knight and Mike King (and our essential adjunct, Sharon McIntosh).

Whatever subfecal nonsense is breaking on CNN or trending on Twitter, my family, friends and colleagues are my America, and I pledge allegiance to them as they have shown it toward me. And that counts our customers too, the speechwriters and executive communication pros who spend their hearts’ blood encouraging and articulating the better angels of the nature of each and every leader they serve—the institutional leaders who in the temporary absence of coherent or broadly respected national leadership, are carrying their bit of this country forward, company by company, charity by charity, school by school.

On Christmas Eve, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were together in Washington a few weeks after the United States had entered World War II and with no idea how long the war would last. During the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, both men gave speeches asking rhetorically how it could be all right to enjoy a holiday with people fighting desperately around the world.

As Roosevelt asked, “How can we put the world aside, as men and women put the world aside in peaceful years to rejoice in the birth of Christ? These are inevitable questions. … And even as we ask these questions, we know the answer. There is another preparation being demanded of this nation beyond and beside the preparation of weapons and materials of war. There is demanded also of us the preparation of our hearts, the arming of our hearts. And when we make ready our hearts for the labor, and the suffering and the ultimate victory which lie ahead, then we observe Christmas Day, with all of its manners, and all of its meaning, as we should.”

And that’s how I hope all good Americans will spend this Fourth of July. And I believe all Americans have good Americans living inside them somewhere—people who as my late father, the man who taught me to love this country and whose memory will never let me hate it—believed would respond “logically to logic, lovingly to love, and honestly to truth.”

So you won’t hear from us this weekend and you won’t hear from us next week. But you’ll hear from all of us, beginning in mid-July and all the surely rocky way through Christmas 2020 when, just maybe, we’ll be able to envision the ultimate victory which must lie ahead.

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