A Long Heritage of Optimism

Posted on September 1, 2016


“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.” 

–        John F. Kennedy 

While blind optimism doesn’t necessarily do us any good, a healthy dose of optimism is essential to keep us marching towards our Someday.  In fact, America is one of the most optimistic nations on earth.  It seems to be a part of our very nature.  Why is it that we as Americans are so inheritably optimistic is a subject of debate but a great explanation as to why comes from historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, who in 1893, published his hypothesis entitled the “Frontier Theory.”

Turner believed that many of the characteristics associated with the American people were traceable to their experience during the three centuries our nation spent settling the continent. The constant willingness of Americans during this 300-year period to head to the next frontier and “begin a new life” was fueled by heavy doses of optimism, inventiveness and a willingness to accept innovation.  Their tendency to view the world through rose-colored glasses gave them the will and alacrity to make repeated trips out west despite the hardships and challenges that were constantly foisted on them.  They were dreamers.  For them, the frontier was a horizon of hope.  The frontier represented a second chance, to erase the mistakes of their past and start fresh with a clean slate and a new attitude.  It was an opportunity to take the wisdom from the lessons they had learned from their past and apply it in a new environment in order to attain their dreams and aspirations of a better life.

Let’s say that you lived in Boston at around the turn of the 19th century and life wasn’t that great for you.  You were short on opportunities and even shorter on cash.  You couldn’t seem to find your rightful place in such a big established city.  You felt like you needed someplace that wasn’t established as of yet, a place that you could get in at the very beginning and build something.  With its virgin land that remained unscarred from man, the Ohio Territories seemed like the perfect place to do just that.

So you sold what belongings you deemed unessential for your pilgrimage, hitched your wagon and slowly trekked westward.  You arrived in the Ohio Territories and made a new start for yourself.  With the wisdom generated from your prior experiences, you made more judicious decisions and approached things a little differently the second go-around.  Still, despite your best efforts, life still wasn’t what you imagined it to be.

And then you heard the news, there’s Gold in them hills, in the hills of California.  The Gold Rush was on and you knew that this was your one opportunity to cash in on this while the door was still open and the iron was hot.  You imagined yourself striking it rich and then cashing it out so that you could live it up and relax for the rest of your life in comfort and style.  Again, you packed up, loaded the cart and led the family westward once more in search of fortune that this time around you were sure would be yours.

You arrived in California and soon discovered that panning for gold was a lot of back breaking work that required a great deal of skill, energy and a large dose of luck.  You did manage to find a few nuggets during that time but the mother lode you romanticized about discovering continually eluded you.

And then you heard that they were offering two million acres of cheap land in Oklahoma to whoever wanted to lay claim to it.   You knew this could be your last chance to be the established land owner you always envisioned as the vast majority of the country had been settled by now.  Yet again, you rushed your family, eastward this time, to the Promised Land where you would stake out a few acres of heaven for you and your family.  Maybe you stayed in Oklahoma for the remainder of your life, maybe you didn’t.

Thus a habitual pattern was established in America that continues to this day.  Look at the fluidness of our country as people who grew up in Ohio head to Georgia, while people in Georgia head to Washington State and people in Washington State head to North Dakota.  This is who we are as Americans.  We are a nation of dreamers and builders.  We are a nation of people who believe that tomorrow will be a better day simply because we dream it.

Thanks to those brave settlers and frontiersmen, we as Americans continue their heritage of hope and optimism, asserting that life in the future will definitely be better Someday when I move to . . . 

This blog is an excerpt from my book, Someday I’m Going To. . . Available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Someday-Going-Inspiring-Straightforward-Achieving-ebook/dp/B00H2B6L6C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472047908&sr=8-1&keywords=brad+rudisail

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