November 14, 2020 / VOLUME NO. 131
Coming Together

I’ve been thinking about my grandparents a lot lately.

My Meemaw and Papaw, as we called them, were part of the Greatest Generation, experiencing the travails of the Great Depression and World War II as young adults in rural western Kentucky.

My bespectacled Papaw didn’t serve in the war, but he left the family farm around that time to become a Presbyterian pastor. Meemaw raised my aunt and my dad, and at some point discovered the best way to fry okra. But like a number of Americans, they supported their country during those tumultuous times.

More than 400,000 U.S. soldiers died in World War II; almost 700,000 more were wounded. Americans on the home front made smaller but vital sacrifices, rationing goods and food, conducting scrap metal drives, buying bonds to fund the war effort and planting victory gardens.

“Do with less,” a poster produced by the U.S. Office of War Information said, “so they’ll have enough.” They, of course, being the soldiers fighting on the front lines.

On the other side of that crisis, Americans enjoyed a multi-decade period of economic prosperity and expansion.

“When the war ended, more than twelve million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. They went back to work at their old jobs or started small businesses; they became big-city cops and firemen; they finished their degrees or enrolled in college for the first time,” wrote Tom Brokaw in “The Greatest Generation.” They also married and raised the generation that became the Baby Boomers.

I hesitate to compare today’s troubles — a pandemic and interrelated recession, political strife — to the struggles the Greatest Generation faced in the 1930s and ‘40s. But I don’t think it’s too late to adopt their values — “personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith,” as Brokaw wrote — to confront the challenges we face.

It’s time, as a country, to come together.

“[W]e need to move from debates about why we cannot succeed to conversations about how we can,” Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith wrote after the recent presidential election. “The more bridges we can cross together, the more we likely will find that Americans of all backgrounds in every state and county share far more in common than we currently appreciate.”

• Emily McCormick, vice president of research
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