1976 and 1979: Common Good and Malaise

    October 10, 2020

    Prescient words for our current political and social climate. Two steps forward, it seems, 14 steps back. -dayle

    Part one of Barbara Jordan’s historic Democratic National Convention keynote speech in 1976. Jordan made history by being the first African American woman to deliver keynote speeches at a Democratic National Convention.

    [Every word.]

    “I could list the problems which cause people to feel cynical, angry frustrated. Problems which include lack of integrity in government, the feeling that the individual no longer counts, the reality of material and spiritual poverty, the feeling that the grand American experiment is failing. I could recite these problems and then I could sit down and offer no solutions. Americans deserve and want more than a recital of problems.

    We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community.

    Our mistakes were the mistakes of the heart. Let us heed the voice of the people and recognize their common sense. If we do not, we not only blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the common ties that bid all Americans. Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek only to satisfy their private work…wants. To satisfy their private interest. But this is the great danger America faces,

    that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual; each seeking to satisfy private wants.

    If that happens, who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common good? Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or, will we become a divided nation?

    We must not become the new puritans and reject our society. We must address and master the future together.

    A national community. This we must do as individuals, and if we do it as individuals, there is not president of the United States that can veto that decision.

    1. Restore a belief in ourselves.
    2. Share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.
    3. Begin again to shape a common future.

    For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.

    We as public servants must set an example for the rest of the nation. More is required of public officials than slogans and handshakes and press releases.

    A spirit of harmony will survive in American if each of us remembers that we share a common destiny; if each of us remembers, when self-interest and bitterness seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny.

    Abraham Lincoln and the concept of a national community.

    “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of a democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”

    Historian Jon Meacham, It Was Said:

    ‘Born in Houston in 1936, shaped by her grandfather’s teachings, as she recalled it, he drilled this lesson into her on Sunday evenings “Just remember the world is not a playground, it’s a school room; life is not a holiday, but an education.” One eternal lesson for us all, to teach us how to love.

    A daughter of the segregated south, Barbara Jordan, keynotes the Democratic National Convention of 1976. It was America’s bicentennial, and Jordan was a voice born in one nation speaking to the hopes of a better nation to come.’


    Barbara Jordan was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. [Wikepedia]

    Over thirty years ago, July 15th, 1979, Jimmy Carter gave his famous “malaise speech,” in which the president said the country’s economic woes were in part due to a “crisis of confidence.”

    Full audio speech:


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