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Optimism and History

Gil Troy , Historian and Writer

"I am an optimist because I'm an historian - and I compare all the good of today with all the bad of yesterday and know that tomorrow will be even better; and I'm an optimist because I am a Zionist, living the miracle of Jewish redemption after 2,000 years of wandering.  Golda Meir supposedly said you can't be a Zionist and a pessimist, so I chose Zionism and optimism!"

John Stanhope, Chancellor, Deakin University

"I am extremely optimistic about our future because the creativity of people always finds a way to solve problems and change things for the better. History shows that while many problems seem insurmountable optimistic creative people make the difference. New jobs will be created, new industries will emerge and an exciting new future will continue to evolve"

Pip Marlow, CEO of Salesforce.com ANZ

"History is still being written.  Optimism is a strategy to make our history a better one."

Tenzing Lamsang

“Optimism?  The broad sweep of history shows we are more prosperous, peaceful and equal than at any time in history. Yes, we have our issues (the biggest  one is climate change) but humanity is getting better”

John Salter, Disaster Resiliance Consultant

"What makes me optimistic? That humans can exercise free will guided by purpose. History is threaded with struggles - at all levels, from individuals to global efforts - to achieve. That freedom often generates a struggle between opposites, but that is the dialectic we all move forward with."

Michael Stallard

“I believe people can work together to make the future brighter. Not everything is in our control, certainly, but time and again throughout history optimistic people have pulled together and persevered to overcome obstacles and achieve great ends."


Professor Tim Cummins, President, IACCM

"I am optimistic because of the past. Looking back over history, humanity has faced many challenges and taken many wrong turns, yet its progress in raising the quality of life has been nothing short of remarkable.”

Raya Bidshahri, Founder & CEO of Awecademy

“There is nothing to be gained from blind optimism. But an optimistic mindset can be grounded in rationality and evidence. It may be hard to believe, but we are living in the most exciting time in human history. Despite all of our ongoing global challenges, humanity has never been better off. Not only are we living healthier, happier, and safer lives than ever before, but new technological tools are also opening up a universe of opportunities.”

Bonnie K. Goodman, Historian

"I and we can all be optimistic that we see in history that society does learn from its mistakes and that is why history education is so important because it’s our best defense and also the best hope for the future."

Kerry Anderson, Author of 'Entrepreneurship: It's Everybody's Business!'

“There are only two choices in life. As long as you are prepared to get out of bed every day I believe that you are an optimist. At every point in history, there is 'hardship' of all different forms.  It’s how you deal with it that matters. It is purely and simply up to us. No blaming anyone else!”

Adam Jacoby, Founder of MiVote

The Case for Optimism?  A global awakening of consciousness around the need for solutions orientation and a generation with a greater technological capability than any time in history.

Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor, Australian National University

“I continue to be, and describe myself, as that most unusual and perhaps implausible of creatures in this day and age – an incorrigible optimist. I am acutely conscious that always looking on the bright side lends itself to parody, as Monty Python fans will hardly need reminding. But what I offer throughout, in every one of the policy areas in which I have been immersed, are essentially two kinds of explanations for my evident naivete.  The first is that, however bad things may seem to be, they often don’t look quite so bad when looked at from a longer historical perspective – that’s true of conflict generally, mass atrocity crimes, civil violence, major human rights violations, and certainly of poverty – and there is usually at least some objective ground for thinking there may be a way of solving, or at least containing the problem in question. Will Kim Jong-un ever really be the first to attack anyone when he knows that to be homicidal is to be suicidal? And with all the checks and balances, constraints and push backs now visibly at work against Donald Trump there seems reasonable ground for believing that the present US presidential horror- show will not careen completely out of control.  My second explanation is a more basic one. I have found throughout my public life that as a practical matter, optimism is not self-fulfilling, but it is certainly self-reinforcing, just as pessimism is self-defeating. If you believe an enterprise is bound to fail, you won’t even begin trying to push the envelope. Achieving anything of lasting value in public life is difficult enough, but it is almost impossible without believing that what seems out of reach really is achievable. The bottom line is simply that I would prefer to live life an optimist and periodically be proved wrong than live as a pessimist and always be right.”


President Barack Obama

“We have to reject the notion that we’re suddenly gripped by forces that we cannot control. We’ve got to embrace the longer and more optimistic view of history and the part that we play in it.  If you are skeptical of such optimism, I will say something that may sound controversial. I used to say this to my staff in the White House, young interns who would come in, any group of young people that I met with, and that is that by just about every measure, America is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.”

Teresa Engelhard

“What makes me optimistic today? I like to zoom out and look at where we've come from, and it's really hard not to be optimistic when you do that. Particularly I think, being a female in our society, you just have to zoom out a little bit - a hundred years - and you can see a huge amount of progress. Zoom out even further, and you can see the progress of mankind, going from our violent, alpha primate programming to using our intellect to develop an ability to evolve ourselves. We, speaking broadly about mankind, have used our own thinking to design transcended capability, shifting our evolutionary path from biological molecules to thought processes. And so I think our challenge is continuing to shift in that positive direction and history has proven that it's at least possible, if not inevitable.”


Justin Johnson

“I am absolutely optimistic about the future.  It is what we make it!  Leadership is all about having a vision, sharing it with others and bringing them along.  There seems to be a lot of disruptive forces and threats in the world today - but there has always been disruption and there will always be threats.  We as a people have more knowledge and capacity that at any time in our history - could we screw it up? Of course! But I am confident we won't, that good leaders will cut through the noise and lead us to a bright future. It won't be linear, there will be miss-steps and side trips - but that is the way it has always been.”

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