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Fundamental Optimism

"A chance to show the very best of our national character – our fundamental optimism"

So said the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a press conference announcing the wording of the referendum question for incorporating "The Voice" in the Australian Constitution.

I have not noticed anyone use the term "fundamental optimism" and today added it to my list of optimism superpowers.  It's a powerful evocative term and it must have missed my attention.

With a little research, I found the term had been used in 2013 by a previous Australian PM, Julia Gillard.  On the retirement of Rob Oakeshott, Julia said "Rob Oakeshott is a man of energy and ideas whose fundamental optimism for Australia endears him to almost everyone who knows him."

So too, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews had used the term in 2016 in a speech to the Gippsland Regional Assembly when he said, "I want to acknowledge everybody who has taken the time to be here at this important opportunity to discuss the future, to discuss the challenges that we face, but also the fundamental optimism, the positivity, the toughness in some respects, but also the innovative nature of those who have made this community what it is today."

President Obama referring to the American economy in 2016, said, "This progress is due directly to the grit and determination and hard work and the fundamental optimism of the American people."

I flicked back through my book, "Optimism: The How and Why" and found further references.

Read More on "Optimism: The How and Why"

Nelson Mandela said, "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward."

The author Alice Boer told me “the act of seeking change, and undertaking action is itself a fundamental act of optimism.”

Professor Paul Mazerolle, President, University of New Brunswick, told me,  I am optimistic for the future because of my fundamental belief in the skills, values, and commitment of people to make a difference for the world, supported by the wider community in enacting or supplying resources and conditions to enable human flourishing to endure."

During an hour of optimism for the suburban Greater Dandenong Chamber of Commerce, the founder of Team Kids, Sam Hoath, told me, “I think a fundamental reason my business has been quite successful is that I always see the opportunity in things. I always see the brightest side of things. And I think what happens is that optimism becomes infectious in a good way. It provides hope and it provides positivity. And I think the culture in any organization is the most important thing. And if you can share optimism, then that promotes healthy culture positive culture. And I think that’s a key ingredient for success, no matter what you’re looking to do.”

Mauro Oretti, Vice President, SkyTeam Airline Alliance told me, “I find that there is a strong correlation between optimism and non-violence. Allowing ourselves to unceasingly look at the bright side of things, even when circumstances seem to suggest the opposite, drains our thought patterns from negativity – often the root cause behind violent behaviours – hence encouraging a more equipoised attitude towards the fundamentally benign nature of our universe.

The term "fundamental optimism" refers to a belief or attitude that the world, despite its problems and challenges, is essentially good and will ultimately improve. It is a philosophical position that sees the human condition as one of progress and improvement and holds that things will generally get better over time.

The origins of the term "fundamental optimism" are difficult to trace, as it is a relatively modern term that has been used by a variety of thinkers and writers in different contexts.

In 2008, speaking at Brookings, Gregg Easterbrook posed this question, "Would you rather live as an average person in the United States of the present day or in this or any other nation at any time in the past? That question answers itself and is a reason for fundamental optimism."

In a 2015 Vox Facebook post, the question is "Does America's fundamental optimism put it at odds with Israel?"

Katie Gray in a 2016 essay "Optimism: Not half empty; perhaps half full, but certainly in the process of being filled" wrote, "A number of people have said I’ve demonstrated considerable resilience both in my personal and professional life. When I was delving into resilience as part of my work I was bemused by how fundamental optimism is to having and developing resilience. This baffled me because I’d never considered myself an optimist (in fact a close friend called me a catastrophist and some have referred to me as a pessimist)."

Read More From Optimists on their Optimism


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