On the morning of Saturday, November 19, 2016, I found myself driving up to Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. The week before, Trump had stunned the country by winning the election, and I was still reeling. The country’s reaction to his victory was swift and hideous: The bigots in America took it as a legitimization of their hatred of others, and acts of hate were ubiquitous. Trump had ratcheted up his criticism of free speech, tweeting insults that morning at Saturday Night Live, the New York Times — even the cast of Hamilton. This isn’t normal, I found myself thinking. We are in great danger.
I needed to take a break from the steady stream of e-mails flooding my inbox. This is the worst day since 9/11…. What do we do now? How could I assure others that we were going to be okay when I wasn’t sure myself? I needed the steadying influence of my personal heroine. I found myself wondering, What would Eleanor do today?
That Saturday was a crisp, sunny day, and Val-Kill a familiar vision of peace in what already felt like a country in chaos. I first started by reading Eleanor’s quotes on government and democracy and courage, walked by the old typewriter she used to write her weekly newspaper column, My Day, then took my dogs along the trails she had walked each morning with her Scottish terriers. My heart felt heavy, but somehow, in Eleanor’s presence, I felt less scared playing her words in my mind again and again, “Courage is easier than fear.”