I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone refer to their hope in a certain situation only to have some wiseacre retort, “Hope is not a plan.” Now I’m not saying that it’s okay to simply hope something will happen and not put in the required thought, initiative and effort. However, I think this increasingly trite retort is taking a negative toll. Hope has long been a core value of our country, even before we became a country—especially before we became a country. Hope forms the core values of our nation as reflected in the Constitution. Our nation is the land of hope to so many around the world, yet internally we would often rather crush people’s dreams than allow hope to generate ideas, enthusiasm or energy.
This weekend I was in the Reagan Building in downtown Washington, DC where I came across the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Library and saw this quote from our 28th President:
“There is a spirit that rules us…I believe that men are emancipated in proportion as they lift themselves to the conception of providence and of divine destiny and therefore I cannot be deprived of the hope that is in me. In the hope not only that concern myself, but the confident hope that concerns the nation-that we are chosen and prominently chosen to show the way to the nations of the world how they shall walk in the paths of liberty.”
I’ve never been much of a fan of Wilson due to his socialist leanings, but this quote struck a chord with me. Upon reading it, I thought of other influential Americans like Lincoln, Kennedy, Dr. King and Warren Buffett. A common theme among all these leaders is their undying reliance on the hope that this country offers and each individual’s opportunity to achieve the manifestation of their hopes and dreams.
I can personally attest to the value of hope from my family’s experience growing up in the Midwest. For several generations, my family worked tirelessly to provide more and more hope for their children moving from family farms, to assembly line jobs in the “big city” to serving in the military and traveling the world. I didn’t know it at the time, but my siblings and I spent our formative years living in housing subsidized by the manufacturing company employing my dad. We had wonderful neighbors who cared about each other and worked hard to make a community that others envied. I remember in the blizzard or 78/79 all the men in the neighborhood started their snow plows and spent days clearing each others’ driveways, sidewalks and the streets of the entire community because the city snowplows couldn’t get out and when they could they prioritized other areas of the city. I remember parents bringing in kids from all over the neighborhood for snacks and yelling at all of us to get home because the street lights were on. I remember men from the neighborhood coming over to help us build our garage and pour the concrete for our driveway. Despite intermittent layoffs, late shifts and backbreaking work, these men and women always reflected hope and joy to the kids in the neighborhood. It might have been the garage refrigerator full of Old Style that provided the lubricant needed to make the corners of their mouth turn up in that smile, but I strongly believe it was the character developed by their parents and previous generations that came to this country saying “I have hope we can be successful in America…the land of the free and the home of the brave.”