“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
During the bruising U.S. 2016 presidential election, voters were constantly reminded Washington was elitist, broken and has failed the American people.
David Goldfield, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in his captivating book, “The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good,” reminds us of the time when government wasn’t so broken. He reminds us that polio was largely cured (Salk vaccine) due to the growing role of the federal government in national health, and science; when the G.I. Bill (after W.W. II) allowed thousands of working-class Americans to earn a college degree, including helping put thousands into jobs, houses, and businesses.
When the Soviets launch of Sputnik embarrassed our nation on how far we lagged behind our chief adversary in space, we didn’t point fingers and demonize those in office. Rather, we worked together as a republic to find a solution, which was the passage of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958, strengthening education in sciences, foreign languages, and area studies in Universities. The NDEA was hailed as the most important national education legislation in 100 years. According to Goldfield’s splendid research, “1.5 million men and women had gone to college on NDEA’s student loan program, 15,000 of those earning doctoral degrees.”
The passing of the Clean Air Act of 1963, the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the passage of Title IX in 1972 (using the office of Civil Rights to police sexual discrimination), the founding of the EPA and the Clean Air Act, were all heroic acts of federal legislation to improve equality and quality of life for all Americans. They were accomplished under a Democratic Chief Executive as well as a Republican Chief Executive and signed into law due to both aisles in Congress coming together as one team to improve conditions for all Americans.
Imagine, as Goldfield chilling points out, for the first time since W.W. II, children are less likely to be better off economically than their parents; and more chilling still, more than 20 percent of children live in poverty, ranking the U.S. 28th among 34 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations.
In this toxic political environment of tribalism (blue vs red, Fox News vs MSNBC) we’re living in; when compromise has become an evil word, there was a time in this country, which historian David Goldfield chronicles so masterfully, when there existed a firm partnership between Washington and the people that helped them fulfill the promise of the American dream.
Whatever became of that country?
October 18, 2018