The phrase “first hundred days” was originally used in a radio address by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was referring to the 100-day session of the 73rd United States Congress between March 9 and June 17, not the first hundred days of his administration. The term is most often applied to the productive special session of Congress summoned by Roosevelt in 1933 to cope with the Depression. The historical parallel to FDR’s Hundred Days was Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his triumphant march across Europe that culminated in disaster at Waterloo.
The time span between Napoleon’s Elba escape and ultimate abdication, however, was 116 days; the “hundred days” was applied to Louis XVlll’s absence from Paris beginning March 20, 1815—as Napoleon arrived—to June 28, when the king returned in state after Napoleon’s defeat. The Count de Chambord, a prefect of Paris, coined the phrase: “A hundred days, sire, have elapsed since the fatal moment when your Majesty was forced to quit your capital in the midst of tears.”
Roosevelt’s Hundred Days were equally eventful. During the period from March 9 to June 16—exactly 100 days—the 73rd Congress enacted such milestone legislation as: vast public works and relief measures; guarantees of bank deposits and tighter federal legislation of the banks; agricultural subsidies and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Still in relation to that often-misunderstood and misused “one hundred days”: While John F. Kennedy was working on his inaugural address, his speech writer Theodore Sorensen wrote in his memoir Kennedy, the president at one point said impatiently: “I’m sick of reading how we’re planning another Hundred Days of miracles. Let’s put in that this won’t all be finished in the first hundred days or a thousand.”
His finished speech read: “All this will not be finished in the first hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
Yes, indeed. Let us begin—with more recent history. Whether our own aberrational “hundred days” began in 2001 with promises of 4-lane highways in the sky; a return in 2006 to the eventful days of green gold; jobs-jobs-jobs in 2011 and an “immediate” injection into the private sector of “$100 million”; the full implementation of “five to stay alive” upon being elected is hardly the problem. What is of concern is that the writers of the cited dud checks knew they were serving the people political soufflé; their sole purpose being to con a people so desperately hung up on voodoo and obeah they continued to believe in miracles—even when one after another they had failed to materialize.
I have never placed much faith in the words of politicians. On the other hand I truly believed in 1997, to paraphrase the dearly departed Sam Cooke, that a change was gonna come. Not only because the nation had finally off-loaded a 40-year-old administration fresh out of constructive ideas, but also because it seemed to me the people had decided they’d had a bellyful of politicians with lying eyes and disguised greasy smiles but no intention to deliver on their hand-on-heart pledges. We had been fooled too many times, I reminded myself, the next batch of politicians to fool the people surely would be hung out to dry . . . or something like that.
I truly believed back in 1997 that we, the people, had suffered too many lose-lose wars that benefitted only politicians, regardless of party, and henceforth would come together in our own best interests. That I believed right up to the moment Kenny Anthony plunged his serrated Brutus dagger in the back of Lady Liberty and booted out of office three senators who had stood on the side of the people against the narrow interests of his party. Yes, indeed, I am now irrevocably convinced that politicians will put the people’s interests first only when their own selfish interests depend on the fulfillment of the popular aspiration. Right now, they do not!
We need not go back to that multi-million-dollar pie in the sky that was only bait for the especially naïve. We must move on, united in our purpose to save our comatose country and our bleeding rear ends. It serves no good purpose to babble about implementation of “hundred days” promises doomed never to be delivered to our doors; not in a hundred days, not in a thousand days—not in our lifetime. Starting with whatever John Compton offered in 1964, every successive government has promised to take such action as would perchance ameliorate the floods that predictably follow a few hours of rain, whether in Castries, Bexon or Soufriere.
The task of at least surviving a heavy shower without killer floods may not be easy. But then neither is it impossible. Proper drainage meticulously maintained would go a long way as a preventive measure. So would a change in the people’s garbage disposal habits.
But we were revisiting the origins of the phrase that our campaigning politicians have mindlessly echoed for a few years now, in the process unwittingly placing around their necks psychic boulders beyond their powers of survival. Indeed, they’ve added to their “hundred days” burden two more ponderous stones: “in office.” So, they are now expected to deliver in the “first hundred days” of their respective administrations what neither FDR nor JFK, with their unlimited resources, ever dared to imagine, let alone promise. Let me repeat, the original “hundred days” related to something other than our politicians have invented: a kind of cat o’ nine tails for their own backs.
And so, while Allen Chastanet wrestles with his party’s election-time five-to-stay-alive jive, I continue to expect him to deliver to the people resolutions to the following monster problems: IMPACS; the people’s Power of Recall; return of the Saint Lucia Cross handed Gilbert Chagoury; Grynberg. As I see it, the cost of clearing these roadblocks should be minimal and the returns phenomenal. Let’s forget about fantasy “hundred days” missions impossible, then, and instead start doing what must be done lest we perish. Let us begin . . . NOW!