A Time to Win and a Time to Lose
Sandness, Claire. "A Time to Win and a Time to Lose." Kulm Messenger, 22-23 June 1979.
Americans, opportunities abound everywhere. All you have to do is mark them out and take hold of the ones that fit for you, the ones that you can serve with the most effectiveness, the ones you can serve with the most joy and the most satisfaction. Shakespeare wrote that there is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted all the voyage of their life is in shallows and in miseries, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our venture.
We have no yesterdays; time took them away. There is a time to be born and a time to die, but we must remember that there is an important element between those two parts. And between those two callings there is a time to seek and a time to lose. And when I think about this, I have to dwell on the makeup and creation of man.
Why are you like you are? What makes you do what you do? What makes you sometimes seek after, and why do you sometimes lose? The Psalmist wrote: “What is man that thou art mindful of him and the son of man that thou does care for him? Yet thou hast made him a little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor.”
One cannot help but marvel at the divine design of man; what possesses this spirit of strength not weakness, of hope not fear. In hamlet we read: “What a piece of work is man; how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like his God; the beauty of the world, the paragon of all animals.”
Unfortunately many people see opportunities as obstacles and risks not as a challenge, not as an opportunity at all. Every opportunity and challenge worth anything has risks and difficulties, but you dare not dwell on them because how can one seek, how can you achieve, how can you harvest if you don’t plant? Where there is no risk, there is no reward. Many opportunities have come to me in my lifetime and yours too I’m sure. Good opportunities. Many of them have challenged me almost beyond my intellectual capacity, almost beyond my courage, and sometimes I think I know first hand what the guy meant who said, “Fools wade in where angels fear to tread.”
Along with opportunities come responsibilities. Sometimes those responsibilities are your joy, sometimes it is your duty, often it is both. Sometimes it is yours alone, and sometimes it is yours to share. The opportunity for me to share this day with you people here is a joy indeed. One that I have been looking forward to very much, and one that I really appreciate and thank you for. It is also a joy to have you celebrate with me for 33 years ago today I made a speech before an audience, not this large, and it contained only two words, “I will.” The minister asked “Wilt thou?” and I wilted…33 years ago today I married Barbara Potts, I’ve done some dumb and foolish things in my days, but that isn’t one of them. Barbara’s background is made up of German and Dutch and Scotch and Irish, and I’m a full blooded Norwegian. So our kids are just kids, I guess. Norwegians are accused of being a very cold and unaffectionate people, but I’ve proved to Barbara that was not true for I told her the day that we got married that I loved her and if I every changed my mind, I’d let her know. Now really, I tell her that I love her more today than I did yesterday but not as much as I will tomorrow.
I have enjoyed very much thinking about what I could say to you today, reading some things that I had wanted to read and keeping in mind the grand and noble purpose of this celebration, the planning and the work that it involves, the leadership and the following that it required, and I thought of the words of the wise old king: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” What a great truth that is. Why are you here today? For many reasons perhaps, but mostly it is the time and season for this community of Fredonia to gather together in a spirit of love and thankfulness and to make an expression of appreciation. For what? For God’s goodness to you people for the kind of life that you have here today, for the generations now gone that worked and sacrificed and even suffered that we might enjoy the life we have in this community and this America. A generation goes, and a generation comes; yet the earth stands firm forever. The sun rises and the sun sets. Then it goes to its place, it speeds and there it rises. Southward moves the wind, and then it turns to the north and it turns and turns again. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled; and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which may be said, “Look now, this is new”: Already long before our time it existed, only no memory remains of earlier times; just as in times to come next year will not be remembered.
Perhaps one could say that a celebration like this is a time of remembering, a time to look at the past, a time to look at the present, and a time to look to the future. Life can only be understood by looking backwards. But it must be lived by looking forward. We look to the past 75 years of this community, and we see a generation of pioneering people for they were the beginning. And we look at the present, and we see the people of this town and of this community for they are the strength and the growing. And we look to the future, and we see a generation not yet born for they are the future. So we pause together in celebration to remember people, those who were our loved ones, those who were our neighbors and friends now resting from their labors, and we gather to make known to one another a deep appreciation that we feel in the faith and investments that all have made in God, in our land and in each other. The strength of your church, the strength of your land, and the strength of your people is what brought you here today. These strengths have built up and sustained this humanity over the past many years. The strength of the soil. Many of you people are farmers and you know that lesson well. It is a necessity of existence. When we talk about the wonders of our creation, certainly we must talk about our good soil. Our nation is blessed with an abundance of it. It reaches high to the mountain tops and low to the valleys, and the vast bulk of our worldly goods and natural beauty is derived from it. Our good soil produces most of our food. It is a containment for our lakes and streams, a home for our wildflowers and birds and animals. It provides us with oil and coals, precious metals, with stone and most of our minerals, and the great realm of agriculture in all America is made up from this great strength of our land.
I am a farmer, and I never apologize for that. Farming can be one of the most satisfying, enjoyable and rewarding lives that there is, or it can be only a terrible existence. It is up to you. Farm life is what you want it to be. It is what you make it. This is a rural farming community, and when I think of Fredonia and most all other towns and cities of our state, I always think of the community, the community of people working together and sharing together because we all need each other. Williams Jennings Bryant said, “Burn down our towns, they will rise up again; burn down our farms, and the grass will grow in the city streets.”
We seek life in many ways and in many forms, and the rewards are returned to us in many dimensions. Life is what we are alive to. It is not length but breath. There’s a time to be born and a time to die, and there is a time to win and a time to lose. If we seek only in life the appetite of pleasure, of pride and money, and not goodness and kindness, purity, love and beauty, history, poetry and music and flowers, stars and God and eternal hope, then you have lost already. I know what it is to lose. A farmer is a gambler. He throws his seed like dice on a giant gambling table of land, and he bets his muscles and know-how on the heat of the sun and the turn of a rain cloud, and sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses. And God makes him sweat for his winnings. In my own life as a farmer, I know there’s a time to plant and a time to harvest. And that timing is important. What kind of a harvest would I have if I didn’t understand that for everything in farming there is a season? So it is in life: There are seasons that one must recognize and serve when they are offered. I suppose that I could say that I have been in a season of politics for a few years now, and for your comfort that season will soon be over for me. Then I will want to serve in some other way or in some other arena, and I’m sure that opportunity will come to me, certainly not knowing now at all what that may be. I know that in politics as in farming it is absolutely necessary to seek help, to seek support and friendship, and still sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But one must always remember that in politics as in farming and everything else in life, you can’t always win. There is a time to lose. And let me remind you that it takes courage to put your name before the public for their support and be willing to risk losing, to risk failure. It is never easy to lose; always easier to win, always easier to say that I was right than to say that I was wrong; but to say that you were wrong and apologize is the mark of a good person. It is the mark of a good executive; it is a strength of character. Certainly as a husband and as a father and as a farmer and as a politician, I haven’t always been right. No one has. No one can be. But I have derived strength from the times that I’ve lost, from the times that I was wrong, and I’m thankful for that. Each time it changes you a little. As we seek, we change; as we achieve, we change; as we win, we change; and as we lose, we change. The world is in constant change and so are people, and some see things that they have loved and cherished disappearing from the scene, and they say that the world will never be the same again.
All about us there is a strange newness, and with the scene is upheaval. They say all is lost, that nothing will remain. It is then that we had better speak sternly to ourselves. There are many things that will change, but there are other things that will always remain the same. Our hope lies in the certainty that there are enduring values. Love is an enduring value. Let us not forget this. Man cannot forever hate. No one can. Beauty is an enduring value. Man cannot live long without it for the same reason that he cannot live by bread alone. Friendship is an enduring value. It is not something passing. Nor is it something shallow. It lies deep within us. It is born in our affections. No distance, no ocean can forever separate the longing in men to live together as friends. Life itself is an enduring value. Tomorrow as yesterday, men and women will kneel before the cradle of little children, and they will dream the same dreams and hope the same hope and utter the same prayers, and out of such dreams and out of such prayers a better world will come.
Yes, that is what man needs to say to himself. We need to say that there are some things in life that are always better than other things, and upon these better things we will live our lives, and upon them we will build our future.
To be sure, there is a time to win and a time to lose. Every person has traveled on those roads. And whether your winnings or your losses in life have been great or small is not as important as what it has done to you. Many people have traveled on the road to destruction because of defeats. Many have traveled on the same road because they have won in life. History has given us many examples of both. I conclude with one.
Vice President Walter Mondale spoke of a man whom we all may have learned many lessons from. He taught us how to win; he taught us how to lose; he taught us how to hope and how to love; he taught us how to live; and finally he taught us how to die. Thank you very much.