Exchange 2: How to Hope

Dear Julie,

Thank you so much for the thoughtful letter. I appreciate your reframing of this topic and, quite frankly, I agree with your sentiments and analysis. “Hope” can certainly thrive regardless of the circumstances, making it a tool that sustains our optimism, fuels our pursuit for a better world, and preserves our mental health. I like that you compare hope to friendship and fresh air; it is certainly essential for a fulfilling, connected, and passion-filled life. As a selfproclaimed idealist, I choose hope and optimism while recognizing that I have been privileged never to have encountered serious challenges to either.

That said, as I read your letter, I found myself wondering: How is hope instilled in those who do not feel the responsibility to inspire hope in others (as you do), nor have the fortitude to conjure it up within themselves? How can hope be communicated and shared in the absence of noticeable progress? President Barack Obama, as he ran for president in 2008, called on us to “hope” by reminding us of the improbability of our collective history. In the midst of a crippling economic crisis and two seemingly endless wars, at a time when many felt disillusioned and underrepresented by the political process, Obama symbolized change and asked us to imagine possibilities for a new future — as many generations of Americans had done before.

But while some may be inspired and their hope may be sustained through hearing about our country’s history of “hope” and its triumph over the societal ills we’ve managed to minimize, others may need more. How do we understand the possibility that President Obama promised during his campaign, now that we near the end of his term and enter an election cycle featuring names of the past? For those on the short end of our country’s growing economic inequality, what is it about our political choices today that suggest we’re on the cusp of making change? In the absence of candidates who symbolize and demonstrate through their record the potential for change in our society, how do we make a credible plea for hopefulness? Best regards, Jon Elkin

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Exchange 2: How to Hope

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