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Words from the Past, Lessons for the Present

BY Eric Osterhus Journal
BY Amanda Uher

We find ourselves at a collective crossroads, but certainly not for the first time.We find ourselves facing an extraordinary struggle, but we are not strangers to overcoming hardship. As we find ourselves here, amidst a stark deviation from our familiar way of life, we can listen and hear the echoes of the past. We can recall wise words shared in the midst of unprecedented adversities to set our sights and forge our paths.

"The most fortunate of us all in our journey through life frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which greatly afflict us. To fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives." Thomas Jefferson | July 1763

Much in that way that well-used leather shows its character over the years, our mindsets are strengthened through change and adversity. In his Inaugural Address, Jefferson acknowledged there is virtue to be gained through chapters of calamity and misfortune, so long as we endeavor to be receptive to their lessons.

"We must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance.” Theodore Roosevelt | March 1905

We leverage practical intelligence as we find creative ways to connect with others, when we collectively adapt to a new cadence in our day to day lives. We show courage and hardihood in the moments when we face difficulties presented by uncertain circumstances. We display endurance when all of these efforts move us forward together.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger, the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy | April 1959

A choice exists within us; a choice to find the new and unique opportunities that exist in our present circumstances. Opportunities to make our own sunshine. Opportunities to recognize the roses among the thorns. Opportunities to invest in others. Opportunities to do good.

We live in a time when homes have become offices and living rooms have become classrooms. Where a small journey outside has become a momentary respite from an unfamiliar reality. In these times – as we look and ahead with hope while looking to the past for guidance – these words remind us to fortify our minds in the midst of life’s calamities... to approach everyday affairs with courage, hardihood, and endurance... to face a crisis and find an opportunity.

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