NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 10, 2013

I called, you answered

As I See It
Robert Campbell

---- — The debacle over who is right has held our nation hostage in a state of suspended animation for too long. We are bereft of statesmen who could argue their case and settle their differences for the good of the nation and quit worrying about the next election. What can an individual do to change the climate of dissension? Plenty, if we take the time to listen.

Over the past few weeks, the Senate chaplain, former Navy Rear Adm. Barry C. Black, has transformed the morning invocation into a daily conscience check for senators. For example: “Save us from this madness” and “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” He almost sounds like Moses laying down the law! Hello! Are you listening, Senate, but more so, do you understand the words of a true patriot and not those who dunk tea bags, wear tri-cornered hats and call themselves patriots?

Harry Reid, listening to the invocation, remarked,”I think we’ve all, here in the Senate, kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd, one of the historic giants of the Senate who prized gentility and compromise.” Well said! May we hear from a Republican, please? Black is non-partisan and was chosen in 2003 by Sen. Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was the majority leader at the time. The chaplain tries for at least one minute every morning to break through on issues that he feels are especially urgent. The House, which has its own chaplain, liked what it heard from Black so much that it invited him to give their invocation Oct. 4. Let’s hope listening is believing!

This possible catastrophe of a government shutdown, meltdown, collapse reminded me of a similar situation facing Great Britain in the early days of WWII. That nation stood alone against all that Adolf Hitler could throw at her. Each night, bombers rained death and destruction on London and other major cities. Aged 10, I remember those days because my mother would cry herself to sleep as Glasgow’s shipbuilding sites along the River Clyde were bombed. My grandmother, Annie Macrae, lived in an apartment overlooking the Clyde and was bombed out thee times.

Our country was isolationist to some extent at that time, ruled over by a cadre that wished to avoid entanglement in Europe’s fight. Even our ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, was convinced that Great Britain could not survive. One man, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, felt differently, and wanted to help Britain survive, but he needed authoritative input from their government to convince our country that we should help. Winston Churchill was the key player to supply that information. Roosevelt put his trust in one man, Harry Hopkins, a close aide, to fly to Britain and find out the true story of their situation. With the information he needed, Roosevelt felt he could sway the U.S. into granting a program of support.

Hopkins served as secretary of commerce for a short time, was a good listener and could get to the people that could give answers to tough questions. Churchill convinced Hopkins that with weapons, ships and airplanes Great Britain was worth the investment and could turn the tide against the Third Reich. On Jan. 14, 1941, five days after discussions had started, Hopkins raised his glass at a farewell dinner and spoke one of the most remembered quotes of the 20th century: “I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return. I am going to quote a verse from the Old Testament Book of Ruth. ‘Whither thou goest, I will go and wherever thy lodgeth I will lodge. Thy people will be my people and thy God my God.” Churchill, with tears streaming down his face, sat transfixed, knowing that the Empire would survive. Hopkins’ report carried the day for the Lend-Lease passage through Congress in spite of isolationist sentiment, and the world survived a near catastrophe.

Where are the statesmen today who care more for their country than themselves and can discuss in an amiable atmosphere the future of the nation without bitter ill will? Our future depends on it!

“I called, You answered” refers to a hymn we sing in church, requesting divine intervention. You would be surprised how this action brings us answers and hope for the future. Why don’t you try it?

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Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.