“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (second inaugural address, 1937)
Gray skies, billowing wind, and periods of harsh rain are slowly dissipating from the Washington D.C. area. While our friends and family back home in sunny southern California have been enjoying the typically perfect weather, we’ve been walking around Washington D.C. over the last few days enjoying the sites after long days of workshops. We’re here with my student journalists for the 85th annual National High School Journalism Convention, and our group represent just 14 out of the 6,347 students in attendance from around the country.
This time last year we were in St. Louis for this event and the weather was quite similar. However, during that trip Kerri and I did our first televised interview for the One Dollar Diet Project. From a local NBC affiliate in St. Louis we answered questions on the Canandian Broadcast Corporation’s “News Hour,” doing our best to help people understand what our experience was like.
At this point, we’ve done so many interviews that it should be clear for most people that this blog started as a way for us to explore the economics of eating through a form of participatory journalism. We hoped that it would help us understand some of the challenges of those who are trying to eat without very much money. It did.
The power of this form of experimentation, and journalism hit us again a couple of days ago when we visited the Newseum, a new museum in D.C. dedicated to the field of journalism. The work of writers like Nellie Bly, who in 1887 faked being insane so that she could be admitted to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island to learn about and write about the experiences of the women imprisoned there, are works worth cherishing. After her article was published, she wrote a book, “Ten Days in the Mad House” which prompted an $850k increase of funds for public charities. More recently the work of modern authors like Barbara Ehrenreich and humorist A.J. Jacobs have helped give us insights that typical reporters cannot.
In addition to visiting the Newseum, we’ve also had the privilege to visit our nation’s Constitution, Bill of Rights, and The Declaration of Independence, and the experience has been an inspiration.
Yet last night, when the student’s sessions were done and the rain had cleared we made our way to some of the monuments we hadn’t seen yet: the Lincoln memorial, the FDR memorial, and the Jefferson memorial. I hadn’t visited Lincoln or Jefferson since the fifth grade, and I had never seen the memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The sound of the sequence of pummeling waterfalls at the FDR site creates a sense calm, which is juxtaposed by cast iron installations, one of which is a line of people waiting outside a door; a reminder of the struggles of the great depression.
In addition to his message, “I Hate War,” which boldly gives visitors reason to pause, is another value of his which is graven in stone for all to see, and that quote is the one at the top of this post. During a time when the debate about health insurance reform continues, and libertarian economic attitudes continue to flourish in ways that leave the least among us without, I hope that some will remember the words of our past president.