The film showed FDR delivering his Fourth Inaugural Address, on January 20, 1945, which he gave at the White House with little ceremony. I was struck by a sentence in it and made a mental note to look it up this morning.
The speech is not one of FDR’s more famous ones and so it is not to be found in such compendia as Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations or William Safire’s Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History. Twenty years ago, I would have had to go to a library. The odds are no better than fifty-fifty that the local ones would have had it, so I probably would have had to send for a book, and it might have been three or four days before I was able to get my hands on the text. Even at the New York Public Library it would probably have taken me at least an hour to determine where I could find it, send in a slip, and get the needed volume.
That was yesterday. This is now: I turned on my computer, typed “Roosevelt 4th inaugural” into Google, and had the text in less than 30 seconds.
Just as the telegraph speeded up communication by orders of magnitude in the middle of the nineteenth century and changed the world profoundly thereby, so the Internet has accelerated research by a similar amount. Google has, in effect, created a single, integrated index to all the knowledge in the world. You don’t even have to flip the pages. Just type in a few keywords, and there is what you are looking for, ready to be highlighted, copied, and pasted into whatever you are working on.
Is this a great world we live in, or what?
By the way, the quotation I was looking for is an apposite one. It turns out that FDR was quoting his old Groton headmaster, Endicott Peabody: “Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights—then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.”
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here