To America has come The Time of Ebola. What's needed among leaders is the ability to create the analogue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "fireside chats." The nation sat by their radios and found hope to go on another day.
The situation went rapidly from one case diagnosed and treated to the possibility of numerous cases. Chris Perez reports in the New York Post:
"The Texas man who is the first confirmed Ebola victim in the US came in contact with several children before he was hospitalized - and may have spread the disease to at least one other person, health officials said Wednesday."
As parents and school teachers know, children aren't cautious about guarding against the exchange of bodily fluids. They might not cover their mouth when coughing. They might not take the time to put a band-aid on a cut, then bump into another child when playing. Sweat, it's still warm in Dallas, may drip from their bodies onto the face, arms, and legs of other children.
The tone and content of a leadership fireside chat would be candid. What is known will be shared. So will what isn't known. The best and the not-so-good scenarios will be presented, in some detail. Trust is broken in the U.S., so this is necessary. Empathy will be palpable. Then outlined will be recommended ways of coping.
My immigrant family recounted listening to FDR during the days before the economy perked up with the beginning of World War II. His words inspired them to continue doing what was necessary to survive another day. That included the decision to crowd together into a third-floor walk-up cold-water flat, defy the Catholic Church and use birth control, and commute hours for night-shift jobs cleaning offices.
Ebola could be just as serious a crisis. At first the ordeal will be emotional. Then, we don't know, do we.