No Nation Has a Right Really to Call Itself a Great Nation Unless in a Great Crisis ...

Jun 23, 2015

It's that time of year again! Every summer interns from around the country join us in our work on the TR Digital Library. We often ask them to share their experiences in the blog. Erin Roper looks at how history can operate as a source of hope and inspiration.

I live and work in a small town facing many struggles. People speak openly of their fears – the economy will collapse by July, the younger generations never rise to the level of success their parents’ generation enjoyed, nuclear war is only as far away as the completion of our enemies’ weapons – and as a result they withdraw from each other.

It is often quoted that “history repeats itself.” Take a look through many of the items in the TR Center Digital Library and it will be hard to deny this is true. While it can be easy to see this as a failure on our nation and its citizens, examining historical records can help reduce the fear that our nation will not emerge from its current crises whole and intact. Examining old records can help citizens see that previous generations faced similar problems and yet were able to move forward and remain a strong and cohesive nation.

One of the most poignant illustrations of this can be found in the text of a speech Theodore Roosevelt gave before the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science in 1916. In his speech Roosevelt highlights problems the nation is facing including hostile foreign countries and border issues and he discusses conflicting opinions on foreign policy, citizen loyalty, and military readiness. The conviction and emotion of Roosevelt’s words is undeniable. The reader does not need to be familiar with the details of the historical events surrounding the speech to realize that the nation was in a state of crisis.


Promise and performance in international relations, January 30, 1916. From the Newberry Library.

When you’re living in a crisis, it can be easy to lose hope of the situation ever being resolved. As a nation, we are currently facing problems that seem to have no ideal solution. Coupled with an oversaturation of news, this has weakened our country’s spirit. But as citizens we can use historical events not only as learning tools, but also as sources of hope and inspiration that will help us find the courage and strength to continue searching for resolutions. Roosevelt says it best on page eleven of his speech:

“Furthermore, in my judgement, no nation has a right really to call itself a great nation unless in a great crisis it is willing to face the hazard and undergo the effort of taking action on behalf of others, on behalf of the ideal of international good conduct, even although its own material interests are not involved.”

Erin Roper is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona’s Master of Library and Information Science program. After spending seven years in law enforcement and public safety, she is looking forward to taking on new challenges in the field of librarianship. 

Posted by Erin Roper on Jun 23, 2015 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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