Thursday, May 22, 2008

Malaise, July 1979

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

It seems as this speech could be ripped from the headlines in the near future.

Unfortunately for Carter, folks didn't take to well to the bad news...and a little over a year later ushered in Reagan on a charter of hope and optimism. Much of the problems he noted were temporarily resolved by increased oil production in Alaska and the North Sea, slight conservation initiatives, as well as drastic tax cuts. Over two decades of extreme growth ensued, encompassing the fall of Soviet Russia and the explosion of the personal computer. The question now becomes, what will save us next time?

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