There appears to be a general apprehension in the country about the future. That apprehension undermines our faith in each other and our faith in ourselves — undermines that confidence. The idea that America today will be better tomorrow has become destabilized. It has become destabilized because of the recession and the sluggishness of the economy. Jobs lost have become permanent unemployment rather than cyclical unemployment. The public mind. Public policy makers are held in low regard. Mistrust abounds. In this kind of environment, it is understandable that change would become the watchword of this time.
Rep. Barbara Jordan (D-TX), 1992 DNC Keynote Speech

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this week’s financial meltdown, finger pointing aside. Even among kitchen table economists I’ve heard from (i.e. working folks who still work from a checkbook), the finger pointing is not only directed at the casino culture on Wall Street, the Bush administration, but that guy who sells flowers, lives in a foreclosed house [“rent free” my friend said] and has taken his family on a 2 month vacation. Or that couple with three cars sitting in their driveway and a $400K mortgage who count themselves among the “struggling.”

I was raised by “Depression” kids, who tend to keep their kitchen table economic plan simple: “Don’t spend money you don’t have. For every dollar you get put something back for hard times.” You may not make a mint on this plan, but the odds of going under are pretty slim.

Another voice of reason popping in my head lately: Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), the Congresswoman from Texas. In 1992 she gave the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention when Bill Clinton was seeking his first term as President of the United States. She also gave the 1976 keynote address on Jimmy Carter’s first run for the presidency. The rest is history.

The theme of the speech was “Change from What to What?” As you see “change” was in the air then too, and when you hear Jordan, you’ll think – “Did I miss that speech from the Denver convention?” It’s almost deja vu: Bush (41) was President, the economy was in the tank with the books reflecting deficits, and there was a bank bail out – the S&L crisis and the Keating Five. Deja vu.

But how often do you hear a politician say the word “sacrifice”? That impressed me in this speech. She said it. I’ve noticed “Sacrifice” is not part of a politician’s vocabulary when it comes to the economy. But then maybe it’s because many voters don’t like to hear the word either.

Like it or not, WE, THE PEOPLE will be bailing out the investment banks and other financial gamblers. The economic meltdown is no joke. No “shoot from the hip” campaign stump speech solution will fix this mess. What comes next, no one knows right now. The crisis is still in a freefall of sorts, that is until the bottom is finally reached or determined. But we also have a multi-trillion dollar national debt and a multi-billion-dollar-a-day-war on the books. If there is a political spin for “sacrifice” better start turning that wheel of fortune now.

Hear Barbara Jordan’s keynote speech from the 1992 DNC Convention:

You can also read the speech on the American Rhetoric website: