Opinion: I believe in chocolate

“But Hershey, showing only a hint of regretful truth-telling, admits, quite matter-of-factly, that there is no product — yet. But, he says, with great finality, ‘There will be,’ and, in fact, ‘the product will sell itself.’”

“But Hershey, showing only a hint of regretful truth-telling, admits, quite matter-of-factly, that there is no product — yet. But, he says, with great finality, ‘There will be,’ and, in fact, ‘the product will sell itself.’” Charlie Riedel / AP

By STEPHANIE RUTT

Published: 07-09-2024 6:00 AM

Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt is founding minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Amherst. She lives in Nashua.

We’re in a seminal moment. Following President Joe Biden’s performance at the June 27 presidential debate, democratic party leaders are now left teetering, facing a critical juncture. What to do now? I don’t envy them. Unless, that is, they could embrace possibility, the kind that ignited this great democratic experiment. Unless they could, like me, believe in chocolate. “What?” you ask. Stay with me! There’s something here that may surprise you.

It’s 1895 and Milton Hershey is an aspiring businessman. His dream? Milk chocolate. Unheard of in the U.S. No matter that he doesn’t have a product yet or even a winning recipe. In Derry Township, PA, factories are already being built and workers hired. And he’s just brought in William F. R. Murrie to interview for the sales manager position. He’s heard of Murrie and feels confident that he’s the right man for the job so he tells him that whatever he’s making he’ll beat and offers him a commission on sales.

Murrie, of course, is interested and asks to see a sample of the product. But Hershey, showing only a hint of regretful truth-telling, admits, quite matter-of-factly, that there is no product — yet. But, he says, with great finality, “There will be,” and, in fact, “the product will sell itself.”

Murrie pauses. His squinting eyes unveiling his disbelief, “So, you’re hiring me to sell something that doesn’t exist, something people don’t know anything about, that’s also going to sell itself?”

And in a suspended moment, just long enough for raised eyebrows, Hershey replies, “Is that a problem?” (See “The Food that Built America,” Season one, episode two.)

Indeed, it was not and the rest, as they say, is history.

What might we garner from the Hershey story to serve this moment? I, for one, find myself wondering what could happen if Democrats were to bring such unwavering belief, vision, and, yes, all the unmitigated risks in tow, to what we could achieve in November — if we were willing to believe that there is a person, as yet unidentified, who’s name may or may not be immediately apparent on the national radar but who’d possess the ability to sell him or herself, highlight Biden’s impressive accomplishments and articulate a clear vision for the future? Could we believe in such a possibility as much as Hershey believed in the possibility of chocolate?

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Make no mistake where we are. Though President Biden’s record as a bipartisan statesman is truly admirable and his record remarkable, many Americans are not living it. More importantly, recent performances have shown his mental acuity is not consistent or reliable. At the 2024 State of the Union address, he was on. At the June 27 debate, he was clearly off. This was not a bad debate performance. This was not a cold. This was a man struggling to finish a sentence.

Republicans, on the other hand, are fully focused on their vision for America as embodied by their leader former President Donald Trump. Emboldened followers have already started dismantling the U. S. Constitution, beginning with the First Amendment, making way for the creation of an autocratic theocracy based largely on the beliefs and values of one sect of Christian believers. And, should they succeed, Trump will continue the dismantling by limiting the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the U. S. Supreme Court’s July 1 ruling on immunity has just handed Trump his very own embossed “get out of jail free” card.

Without question what is needed at this moment is for Democrats to clone the Hershey spirit, the very passion, grit and belief that ignited this great democratic experiment because, Americans, the flame is going out fast.

Yes, replacing President Biden on the ticket at this late date is a tremendous risk. However, while we know Trump supporters are with him regardless of his actions, past and present, I believe many Democrats would welcome another candidate. Such a new person could energize and unite the party with new passion and vigor and, as a result, likely attract many independent voters whom, at this juncture, I fear will stay home on election day.

Of course, we could still win by promoting President Biden and the status quo. But how long will we feel secure given his unstable mental acuity? And, most tragically, should we lose, I could only imagine waking up the next day to look in the mirror and wonder, “What if we’d only had the courage to . . .”

And should we put our faith in a new leader, we could also still lose. However, I for one, would rather go down fighting for what is possible, what could be, like Hershey, alive with courage and commitment, and, yes, with all the risks in tow, those very ones that helped to make our nation great.

Why? I believe in chocolate.