View from the Loge: April 9

April 9, 2024

View from the Loge

April 9, 2024

Last week I was in a meeting in which the featured speaker said it was better to be hopeful than optimistic. He was echoing a common sentiment that, as David Brooks put it several years ago, “...optimism often isn’t the best way to improve your well-being...hope is a far more potent force.”  Optimism, in this view, is passive. You wait for the world to improve and for good things to happen while you go on about your life. Hope, on the other hand, involves agency. Hope implies that if you work at it, life will get better. 

I’m not sure I agree with the parsing (the popular phrase, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” seems to say that the work is in the failure, but success is out of our hands). But I agree with the argument behind it. Waiting for good things to happen to you sometimes works, but generally speaking, good things are more likely to happen if you work at them. 

Domestic politics and global events didn’t become what can feel like a swirling mess of madness on their own. People are doing bad things. They are stirring resentment, anger and fear. And people are also doing good things. They are helping each other, working together to make public policies more fair, and to create a world in which everyone has a shot at becoming whoever they want to be.

The belief that people are more good than bad, and that together we can do great things, is why you’re here. You are learning to tell the stories that shine light on what can be better and stories that celebrate the good. You’re learning to act on those stories in ways that improve lives and strengthen communities. 

GW and SMPA can be frustrating. Domestic politics and global events can seem dire. But you’re here because you believe it can be better. Journalism, politics and teaching are fundamentally hopeful enterprises. Here in SMPA, we teach, learn, research, write, persuade, and advocate. We do all these things because we believe that while we may not control our entire destiny, we control enough of it to make it worth putting in the work.