Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- As gloomy as our economy seems now, we still have plenty of reasons in this season of hope and goodwill to be grateful and even optimistic about the future.

We live in a blessed land where we are free to voice our grievances about policies and people that displease us and exert the ultimate power over governments by replacing unpopular administrations, lawmakers and all those who govern beneath them by simply checking a box on a paper ballot or a computer screen.

We live in a country where people of all walks of life are free to climb the ladder of opportunity and pursue their dreams, even against daunting challenges and heavy odds. Despite all the problems that confront us from time to time, depressions or recessions, we have always overcome them and made this a better and freer place to live and prosper.

To be sure, over the past year, America's spirit of optimism has dimmed somewhat as our economy has descended into a recession that has hurt a lot of people and their communities. Our confidence has waned in the process, and there are those who say our country will never be the same -- that we are consigned to slower growth, fewer opportunities for the next generation and maybe a more dysfunctional society.

I don't believe that for a moment, and I'm happy to see that President-elect Barack Obama -- even as he characterizes the enormous economic and social problems that lie before us -- expresses his optimism that things will get better, the economy will turn around, and lives will be improved.

Early in his primary campaign, Obama said he admired Ronald Reagan for lifting the hopes of a dispirited and pessimistic nation at a dark time in our country's history. Some in his party criticized him for believing there was anything good to say about Reagan. But since his election, he has sounded a bit like him, expressing a sunny optimism that has boosted the nation's confidence in his forthcoming presidency -- as several polls now show.

Whether Obama's big-spending public-works proposals will turn the economy around remains to be seen, but make no mistake, one way or another, it will eventually recover. All recessions end, and this one will, too.

But Obama may have been playing the expectations game when he said that things will get worse before they get better. "It will take longer than any of us will like; years, not months, but it will get better if we are willing to act boldly and swiftly."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.