Learning From the Past

I finally want to relay this e-mail from Sam in Boynton Beach, Florida, who writes:

"You're an upbeat guy, but frankly you're way out of step with reality. The markets, the economy, corporate profits... they're all horrible. And yet you blithely go on and say everything will be all right. I know you take medications. I urge you, for the good of the country, cut back on 'em!"

Sam, with good humor, you make a good point. I am upbeat on our economy, and our markets, and our corporations and I'll tell you why. I'm not fixated on the here and now.

Looking at the Dow Jones Industrials dating back to near the beginning of the last century, the chart goes up, inexorably -- almost remarkably -- up, through some pretty incredible crises. Through World War I, World War II, the Depression, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the assassination of John Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate, two energy crises, the 1987 stock market crash, the Persian Gulf War, the Clinton impeachment.

They're all, in the scheme of things, blips. Painful blips, sometimes even fairly lengthy blips, but blips just the same.

I'm not trivializing the pain. Or telling those who've suffered huge portfolio losses that it doesn't hurt. It's tough. I'm just saying that it's not tough for long.

Some of you say that makes me a clueless, cockeyed optimist. You're half-right. I am a cockeyed optimist, but I don't think I'm clueless. When it comes to the long and remarkable history of this country, I think I'm right on the money.

We've been through some tough times, but we've been through even tougher times. And we always get through it. Why? Because, as I've said so many times, we are greater than the sum of our fears.

I truly believe there is no problem we can't handle and no crisis we can't beat. Some of you say that makes me a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Guilty as charged.

I'm not smart enough to know the exact turning point. But I'm confident enough to know that in every horrible market, in every horrible economic episode, some brave man or woman is diving in, sensing the opportunity of a lifetime.

Like I said, I don't know when, or where or how. But I do know that our future is great -- just look at our past.

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