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Reversing the decline in American optimism

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October 20, 2015

1:27 AM

Every day is like an avalanche of bad news: a sluggish economy, incompetence in Washington, steadfast partisanship. Recently, the United States accidentally bombed an innocent hospital, terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group have remained strong despite years of war, and each day seems to bring word of a new bombing or shooting somewhere in the world. Donald Trump actually has a slight chance of becoming President of the United States.

“Meanwhile, a New York Times poll found that only 64 percent of Americans still believe in the “American Dream,” the idea that hard work could result in success and riches.”

It is because of all this bad news that the renowned, famous, great optimism that America has always been known for is now in decline. According to a study by the MacArthur Foundation, 75 percent of Americans believe that achieving a middle-class lifestyle has become harder for young adults, while 79 percent of those polled believe that it is more common for people to fall out of the middle class than to rise up to it. Meanwhile, a New York Times poll found that only 64 percent of Americans still believe in the “American Dream,” the idea that hard work could result in success and riches. The Times notes that this figure is still dropping.

Feeling down yet? Good. Now ask yourself a few questions.

Where do we, college students, fit in all of this? How does a college student even begin to care, let alone comprehend these important events? After all, we have our finances, our friends, our relationships, our grades, our future to worry about. It is easy to become bogged down. It is easy to become overwhelmed.

This must not happen.

“Now that you have remembered all these wonderful things, we have to realize that, as the so-called “millennial” generation of America, we are meant to reverse the decline in optimism America is experiencing.”

It is so easy for us to forget that we are immensely lucky to be living in America. It is easy for us to forget that we live in the land of opportunity, of peace, of happiness. It is easy for us to take these things for granted. America is the Disney World of countries.

We could be living anywhere in the world, and yet we live and study in what is empirically the most powerful nation in history. We have won the lottery of places a human could live in the whole existence of the universe.

Now that you have remembered all these wonderful things, we have to realize that, as the so-called “millennial” generation of America, we are meant to reverse the decline in optimism America is experiencing. We have to realize that all the bad news prominent in our daily lives is only a concentrated exacerbation of daily events by a media solely meant to inform. All other stories made unnecessary magnanimous, grandiose or negative by news outlets must be disregarded entirely.

“Voting is a privilege that, again amongst other things, allows America to stand out from other countries. We must not waste the privilege of a legitimate vote, as one should never waste the money won on a lottery ticket.”

Therefore it is our responsibility, the youth of this country, to be more optimistic, to act on that optimism and to be agents of change. Optimism begets progress and sustainability. A person would never try doing something if he or she did not think it would be beneficial, whether the “it” described is working out to try and lose weight, or attempting to develop a new, sustainable energy source.

So what should you do the next time you hear something sad about a poor country, work hard to enter a profession that aids the less fortunate around the world or hear something negative about the economy? Remember that it is up to you to determine your own level of success, regardless of macroeconomics. Hear something thought-provoking, negative, or frustrating about politics or the next presidential debate? Voice your opinion, but do not denigrate the other side. And vote. Vote, vote, vote. Voting is a privilege that, again amongst other things, allows America to stand out from other countries. We must not waste the privilege of a legitimate vote, as one should never waste the money won on a lottery ticket.

I know that the American Dream can never truly die, because we, the students of the College William and Mary, are all living the American Dream today. Let’s keep dreaming.

Email Miguel Locsin at [email protected]

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  • Miguel Locsin