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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 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."

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.

Dush WimalGeneral Manager at Weather Intelligence

"In times of adversity, I look back through history, and I look at what the human race has achieved, and that gives me hope and encourages me to stay optimistic and remain positive as well."

Read more of "Dush Wimal on his Optimism"

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.”

Wendy A Harris QC

"What makes me optimistic is the galvanising effect of significant adversity; history demonstrates it gives people the opportunity to show what they are truly made of and can bring out the best human qualities in all of us."

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."

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

"For mine I am an optimist by nature.  My reading of history is that the world has always stepped back from the edge of disaster. Against all odds, here we are, alive and kicking."

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!”

David Rothkopf

"Optimism is realism. That may be a hard concept to embrace in the middle of a rapidly worsening global pandemic and a crushing economic crisis. But history shows it is the right one."

CoronaVirus: The Need for Optimism

John Kolm

"The lesson of history and of all those who have led difficult lives is that you can simply decide, regardless of circumstance and evidence, that you’ll be positive, optimistic and energetic no matter how formidable the waves."

When The World Can’t Hold You Up: A Reflection On Optimism

Bill Lang, Small Business Australia

I'm about to turn 58 years old and had the privilege of growing up in Sebastopol, outside of Ballarat.  I spent time at Melbourne University and then worked in a few countries, spending time living in America a couple of times.  I then worked in various industries and businesses that empowered me to deal with people from many cultures on every continent.

I'm an armchair amateur reader of history and what makes me optimistic and very confident about that future is the knowledge of how society and humans have collectively, over many, many thousands and tens of thousands of years, been able to improve their ability to survive and thrive in all number of conditions.

While traditional media and the tsunami of social media looks to get the attention of everyone's amygdala and making them fearful, the historical knowledge of where we've been, where we've come from, the sorts of things that humans have been able to overcome, makes me incredibly optimistic about any number of things that in many cases we're told threaten our very survival.

I'm optimistic that human beings together will continue, as they always have, to rise to the occasion and, through innovation, solve a number of these issues and have us all further evolve.

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.”

Stephen P Fernando, CFO,  Whitsunday Regional Council

"Human progress and development over the last 100,000 years or so (the age of the Homo Sapiens) has been driven by curiosity and necessity, supported by a healthy dose of optimism (can do spirit). Optimism has made a significant contribution to getting us to where we are today as a species and will continue to contribute to determining our future destinies."

Richard SiegersmaExecutive Director, SWell Centre

"What makes me optimistic?  As I ponder history and life itself, I live with the knowledge that Good wins in the long run. The life force cannot be suffocated to death.  No matter what devastation or calamity our humanity inflicts on itself, the Good always wins in the long run. I trust in the Good always winning and do my best to be on the winning side. The life force makes sure there are many of us on the winning side!"

Lee Zimmerman, Freelance music writer

"All throughout history, anything that’s ever been achieved has been the result of optimism, a belief that anything is possible through faith, effort and the ability to make something better, even when the odds are against it. Success doesn’t happen unless we first believe that indeed we can make it happen."

Craig Saphin

"History shows us that people have an unending capability to morph and reinvent so that the people networks and the parameters around them are leveraged and used to create opportunities for success."

George Abraham, Chief Information Security Officer at the Novatti Group

"The history of the human race makes me optimistic. We have overcome so many challenges, made countless inventions, achieved so many incredible feats that I cannot help but be super optimistic. There is no challenge too big!"

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