Keeping Perspective During Turbulent Times

At times of dramatic change in a nation’s history, fear and anxiety can become pervasive and overwhelming. Troubling visions of authoritarianism or chaos, of political persecution, and even civil war disturb our waking thoughts and nightly dreams. It can be emotionally, almost physically, paralyzing.

As Mark Twain allegedly quipped, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Looking for those historical rhymes can provide perspective at times of disquiet, such as this. This may be particularly true for younger members of our attentive public, who have not lived through, and emerged safely from, some of the dark periods we have experienced as a country.

America’s 241 years of nationhood have been tumultuous. Events have repeatedly challenged the viability of our democracy.

Varied as these events were, they show how frequently crises test our democracy, and how resilient it has proven over time. They also show how important it is for defenders of our freedoms to remain vigilant. No civilization—no matter how mighty or seemingly stable—is invulnerable. All decline and pass eventually from the scene. Only the values and courage of a free citizenry and its leaders assure that we will continue to confront and rise to the challenges that we will inevitably encounter.

A critical role in preserving our values and our institutions falls to nongovernmental organizations that constitute our civil society. These institutions include our churches, synagogues, and mosques, our universities, and our many charitable and philanthropic organizations. The Commonwealth Fund is one of these. As an endowed philanthropy, The Commonwealth Fund has for 99 years enjoyed the extraordinary privilege of economic independence. Currently, the Fund is dedicated to creating a high performance health system in the United States. In pursuit of that goal, it will continue to provide an independent, nonpartisan, and objective view of our health care system, and of the events and developments that may affect the health and health care of Americans.

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