Surely there must be at least five optimists left in America, but so help me, I can only find Rich Karlgaard of Forbes and myself. In spite of all the bad news around us, and the pessimism that accompanies it, there has never been a better time to be an American or to survey our future as a people.
Pessimism is the order of the day. And for good reason. With an economy in tatters, an Afghan war in doubt, and an ever-flowing oil spill in the Gulf, there are many reasons for concern. Our own Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, said this week that America can no longer be counted on to serve as the world's economic engine. So much for positive leadership and inspiration. With a growing internal cancer of homegrown Islamic terrorists and a government without an immigration policy, our security and stability is less than sure. With a president (and Congress) whose obsessions are none of the issues above, but rather ensuring that gays can serve openly in the military and that health care is run by the government, a reasonable person can easily fall into the temptation of pessimism. Understandably, President Obama's approval ratings have reached a new low (41%) after just eighteen months in office.
However, I am optimistic for two key reasons, so I tried diligently on a recent edition of my nightly talk radio show to find another American with a sense of hope and optimism for our future. Sadly, I came up empty. Not a single caller, emailer, or Facebooker acknowledged being optimistic about the future of America. And my listeners are not alone. A new poll from Wall Street Journal/NBC reveals Americans in remarkable numbers seeing our nation on the wrong track, and a Pew/Smithsonian poll shows similar pessimism about our nation's future. The latter poll revealed significantly fewer Americans optimistic about the coming decades as we move toward 2050 than were so in 1999. In fact, about 25% fewer Americans expressed hope for a better personal life or a better America in 2010 than did so in just 1999.
So why my optimism for America's future?