Today we read from The Crisis, Number One, the pamphlet written at Valley Forge in the dark winter of 1776 that summoned the powers of America's greatest propagandist, Thomas Paine, to keep colonial soldiers from giving up.
"These are the times that try men's souls."
The words are immortal and comforting, even today, during difficult, trying times for our country.
President Obama certainly identified with Paine. In his inaugural address, he channeled the words of "The Crisis, Number One" to rally the nation to come together and face the economic crisis that was at its worst the winter he came to power. Unfortunately, the country failed to unite under his leadership in the way it had after 9/11, Pearl Harbor, or during the Great Depression, and the consequences of this are still playing out.
The most famous quote from The Crisis is the opening line, "These are the times that try men's souls." It would have been appropriate on January 20, 2009, near the nadir of the current economic crisis.
But Obama chose another quote, one which he hoped would rally the country together to face the challenges of rebuilding a country that had--morally, economically, diplomatically--stumbled. Here is the quote:
"Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it."
See how he used the quote below in the video of Obama's speech. Skip to 17:30 to really get the full effect of the way he uses the Paine quote.
Paine wrote thirteen editions of The Crisis, writing throughout the war and into the first year after victory. His essays read as fascinating looks into the times, mentioning recent losses or victories and imploring people, both in America and England, to give the Revolution a chance.
BONUS: Read one of the thirteen editions that Paine wrote. Write 100-150 words, describing historic details you find written there and summarizing the ideas Paine took from them. (15 points)
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