Today's commentator is Arthur S. Brooks and I really do not know him, but I have been familiar with the organization he leads as President - the American Enterprise Institute. It has been around for a number of years and has offered wise counsel to all who will listen and respond. But isn't that one of our major problems, not listening to those who have "been there and done that" but worse, listening to those who are merely being paid to offer theories. Let's listen...
"The one thing America needs right now is - hope. I realize how ironic that sounds. After all, hope was exactly the theme of President Obama's winning 2008 Presidential campaign. Unfortunately, that promised hope neither elevated the American spirit, nor renewed our economy. Six years later, a higher percentage of Americans have lost hope, with more saying the country is on the wrong track than when he took office. We are mired in the longest streak of pessimism since Watergate.
The poet Emily Dickinson once defined hope as "that thing with feathers". Hope as a campaign slogan was even less substantial - little more than a nebulous emotional state associated with what we imagined the President could do for us. A 2008 study of the journal Motivation and Emotion shows that this sort of vague hope is actually negatively associated with a sense of personal agency. It is tied to distant goals that we cannot control, like hitting the lottery or depending on the largess of a faraway government.
Real hope - the practical kind that America has traditionally possessed and needs again - is very different than a bumper sticker. Social scientists describe it as a continuation of two phenomenon: possibility and responsibility. Real hope is at the intersection of "it can't be done" and "I can do it if I work hard". Studies show that this makes individuals likelier to to take initiative and earn their success. This is the restless optimism that built our nation.
To revive America growth and confidence, we need real hope, not campaign hope. That requires a policy agenda not of unbounded government, but of jobs, entrepreneurship and educational reform. Most important, though, it means leaders who have hope in the American people - to revive the national greatness through private initiative, hard work and personal responsibility."
As the old comic used to say, "...velly interlesting." Now I recall why I stopped renewing my membership in the American Enterprise Institute. We need more than words to move ahead in any enterprise, as even Mr. Brooks suggests, it takes hard work and personal responsibility. As to private initiative, it should remain in the realm of those who ignore the fact that we live in a democracy, that as a nation we were formed to believe in the creed that we enter this world as individuals and it has meaning only as we make application in our own lives. We need not fear a government that is "of the people, by the people and for the people".
We also need to recall that we have a history that began with a dream and has survived various decades of war in defense of our liberties as well as unfortunate invasions of situations that were beyond our capacity to reason why we were being involved. We can cast all sorts of imaginations as why some seem to have rejected our President's interpretation of the word hope, but we should not ignore the fact that he remains our President. The historians will have a right to make that assessment, but he is our leader and he was given the task of leading us out of the greatest failure of his predecessor and that was to merely imagine the impact of his decisions. The record is clear, this President has accomplished the impossible task of overcoming the greatest fiscal failure in our history. And, of course, that debt continues to soar as our treatment of those involved in those fruitless wars has soared far beyond the comprehension of even the darkest assessment of their potential costs.
That history includes our entrance into World War II when that President had to overcome his political opponents of that day and did so with a simple phrase that would serve us well, even today. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." We do not need the advice and counsel of social scientists whose specialties are focused on the imaginary rather than the hard work of "righting the Ship of State" after decades of fiscal insanity that has been nurtured by members of both political parties.
Need a quotation that applies to these times, "Ask not for whom the bells toll. They toll for thee."
Agreed, we have real problems, but picking on the word hope will not even begin to resolve the tasks that are before us. Nor will continuing to elect "voices" rather that those who have actually studied the sources of our constant habit of fumbling the ball during the kick off and worse, wasting away our time, blaming the "referees".