The expression “for such a time as this” was first uttered by an uncle to his niece in the midst of crisis. It was during a period when a single person wanted to wipe out the entire Jewish population in the Persian Empire. Esther is reluctant to step forward and tell the king what is about to happen. Her uncle Mordecai tells her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
As I watch the press conferences held by President Trump, I know the whole world is listening to what he says. Around the podium we usually see President Trump, Vice President Pence, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Task Coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci is not a tall man, and he does not have a commanding presence or a voice that will make money recording commercials. Yet, I can’t help but be reminded of an old commercial that said, “when J F Hutton speaks, the world listens.” When Dr. Fauci speaks, we are all paying attention.
A few times, journalists have insinuated that Dr. Fauci has a difficult time convincing President Trump of the facts. Fauci calmly replied that he presents the president with the same information that the public receives. President Trump wanted things to return to normal by Easter, but Dr. Fauci and the scientific community persuaded him to extend social distancing until the end of April and maybe further. When he delivered the frightening possibility that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans may die by the end of this virus, it did not sound as awful as it is because he presented it so calmly. But each time we hear the number, whether it is from governors, the president, or his advisors, it became more alarming.
When this crisis is over, we will remember the ways that our leaders told us important things. President Trump does not have that fatherly/grandfatherly assurance that FDR or Churchill had when they led their countries through World War II or asked their citizens for great sacrifices. Instead, he tends to turn things back to his own achievements. We will remember Dr. Fauci’s calm certainty when he spoke facts that we wanted to hear and many that we did not want to hear, but we know that he has to speak them. I do not know if Dr. Fauci imagined in college or his early days at the National Institute that there would be a time when he would speak to the whole country, and everyone would stop to listen to what he has to say.
Not everyone has a national platform like Dr. Fauci. However, each of us will have a time like this, a teaching moment when someone will pay attention to us and we will be the most important person for that moment and that person. I saw an EMT on television who has not been in his house for the past week. He spoke from a distance to his little boy, who said, “Daddy when are you coming home?” His father, filled with emotion, replied, “When we overcome this sickness and people will not need me anymore!” Some children will remember that their teachers drove in a caravan to wave to their students who are home with a new set of teachers—parents, grandparents, and siblings. Some people will remember the grocery store employees and delivery drivers who continued to work, so we have the things we need. Others will remember the neighbor who called to check on them or dropped groceries off on their front step. Historians will remember that some young doctors sounded the alarm in November 2019 about how dangerous this virus was, but their voices and their lives were silenced. For those doctors, it was their moment, their time to speak the truth, no matter what.