Thursday, July 25, 2013

Some Little Rays of Sunshine

When you're smilin' keep on smilin'
The whole world smiles with you
And when you're laughin' oh when you're laughin'
The sun comes shinin' through

Cut those words deep in stone. Make them into a monument -- perhaps a great stone arch. Place them at the entryway and portal to every American town and city.

First brought to the attention of the American people by the great Louis Armstrong, the words of "When You're Smiling", just as much as the Preamble to the Constitution and the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, express the philosophical underpinning that made this nation what it is.

A mere babe in arms can understand them.  Can we not, for instance, imagine an infant Al Sharpton beaming a great big smile at his mother and she reflexively responding "Oh, Al, you sweet little bundle of sunshine! How you brighten every day!"

Okay, perhaps not. Bad example. Sorry.

But historically such joy and optimism has been a part of the American character, and that was equally so in politics (on both the Left and the Right), popular culture, and our every day communal experiences. And most of all it was found in our homes.

Think back, if you are old enough to do so, to the main characters of the popular `50s and `early `60s television shows. Father Knows Best. Leave It To Beaver. Perry Mason. Rawhide. Star Trek. On every one of those shows the main character was an optimist.  A smiler. And yes, this was so --  indeed, especially so -- when problems mounted.

What about our politicians and leaders back then? Yes, the same was true there.

Take Ronald Reagan as an example. It is not hard to see, in our mind's eye, him smiling like that is it?  What about JFK? Certainly!

It is worth noting that Democratic Senator (and later Vice President and Presidential candidate) Hubert Humphrey's nickname was "The Happy Warrior."  How distinctly American!

But perhaps no one in the political sphere better represents 'the sun shining through' than

this nation's president during some our very darkest hours -- the Great Depression and WWII. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. An optimist always. A man of hope. A leader with a truly American spirit.

Yes, smiling, optimism, looking to the future with confidence even when times are tough, these are the qualities that made our nation great. They are among the essential American qualities. They are what, throughout our history, has separated us from all the other nations on the earth. And this was so in good times and bad.

Where is that spirit today?  Certainly it is not seen in the garrulous and often sneering President Obama.

Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? No, no optimistic smilers there. Nor, quite frankly, are those qualities seen in majority of the leaders on the right.

What, though, about in our own lives? We as citizens, in our homes, shops and offices? We as just people?

There we see it. No, not perhaps to the degree we saw it earlier. But in our personal lives -- in our homes, at work, amongst our family and our friends -- there the spirit of American optimism still reigns. There the smiles are to be see. Left or right. Black, brown or white.

Maybe, therefore, we -- the American people -- need to find new leaders for ourselves. Ones that truly represent what we are as a people. Men and women who share our character.

Maybe we need to create a new popular culture. One that does the same.

Maybe we need to tell all those people and the media, in no uncertain terms: "Stop tearing us down." "Stop separating us from one another." "Stop trying to destroy our hopes and our dreams."

And if we did these things, what would be the result?  On this I believe U.S. history, and the words of the song, agree.

When you're cryin' you bring on the rain
So stop that sighin' be happy again
keep on smilin Cause when you're smilin'
And the whole world smiles with you

* "When You're Smiling" - Words and music by Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin, c1929


  1. When I started working on first professional job in the early 80's, my manager told me to stop being so cheerful and happy all the time. The same thing happened just about 6 years ago!

    Even though througout the years I have kept my smiles regardless of the work environment, these comment are always in the back of my mind.

    The fact is that the environment in which we live in, has a huge factor in how people are behaving in our society.

    I enjoyed your articles. Best, FS

  2. FS -- That is so odd! Well, unless, I suppose, you work was in the undertaking field. ;-)

    Some people, it seems, are threatened by other's joy. Maybe that's akin to showing prosperity among those without any or eating a big, delicious appearing, meal in front of the hungry.

    But only a few of us are in position to really share wealth. Breaking off a piece of our bread is not usually impossible. But smiles? Most of us who have 'em readily share 'em!

    The more resent warning tells me the first, all those years ago, had little effect. I hope that was equally so for the second!

    Thanks for sharing!


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