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A Journey From Pessimism to Optimism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
This week, I've had the opportunity to review a couple of important milestones in my life. That's because the Sutherland Institute just released a second edition of my 2009 book, "In Search of Self-Governance." They will also be publishing my new book next year, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not."

Those two books highlight key moments in a long personal journey that has reshaped the way I look at the world. Together, they explain how I can be so deeply pessimistic about America's political system, yet so optimistic about America's future.

When I wrote the first book, I knew that our political system was badly broken but I didn't know what to do about it. Tens of millions of Americans feel that same pessimism every day. Like so many others, I knew that there had to be an answer somewhere, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

Then, a few months after finishing "In Search of Self-Governance," I experienced one of the worst days ever in my personal life. On March 13, 2010, our house was completely destroyed by fire. On that chilly day in March, and in the months that followed, we needed our local government, our insurance company, our church, local businesses, our neighbors and the kindness of strangers to get through something I hope you never experience. It was truly an all hands on board effort. Nothing else would have sufficed.

Ironically, that horrible day helped me see things with fresh eyes and recognize the path leading to a bright future for our nation. While politicians talk about problems, community is where the hard work of creating a better world is actually accomplished. That more upbeat message is reflected in my new book.

Community problem solving, fueled by the digital revolution and inspired by the idealism of the millennial generation, is poised to overcome the failures of our dysfunctional political system. We may not be able to make our political system work better, but we can certainly make our society work better. And, after all, that's what really matters.

While the two books are important markers to remind me of where I've been and how I got to this point in life, the journey is far from complete. Earlier this week, I had the honor of being named a Senior Fellow at The King's College in New York City. We will be working over the coming year to develop an Institute for Community Driven Solutions housed at the school.

The Institute we are building will guide a more hopeful and constructive national dialogue while helping to launch a massive campaign of community problem solving. Still, what excites me about the journey is not what we will do. It is about what a nation filled with 65 million community volunteers and 22 million entrepreneurs can accomplish as a free and self-governing society. When we use our freedom to work together in community, nothing is impossible.

That's why I remain confident that America's best days are still to come.

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