The United States' history, like England's and others, includes reformers, and reformers are people full of hope. Abolitionists hoped their efforts would end slavery, and they did. Suffragettes hoped their efforts would get women the right to vote, and they did.
Hope in America contributed to a can-do attitude named after an author Horatio Alger whose novels all involved rags-to-riches stories. The Horatio Alger myth holds that anyone with smarts and a willingness to work hard can pull himself up by the bootstraps and climb through the social class structure to the top. The life of Andrew Carnegie personifies this.
This nineteenth-century ideology clashes with the twentieth-century reality that not everyone can pull the bootstraps and the recognition that government has an obligation to its less fortunate citizens. The expression "up by the bootstraps" has given way to "lift all the boats," giving hope to the poor.
Perhaps the most profound demonstration of the value of hope in the United States lives among our African American citizenry. It is a subculture that overcame slavery and gained civil rights previously denied for no other reason than racial hatred. The "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is a powerful statement of hope in America.
Indeed, there are examples of hope's positive effects in all countries' histories. Mahatma Gandhi's hope freed India from colonial rule. Winston Churchill's defiance of Hitler instilled hope in a beleaguered nation, hope that gave them the courage to prevail in World War II. Nelson Mandella's hope brought an end to Apartheid in South Africa. And presently, the hopes of the Ukrainian people frustrate the ambition of a ruthless Russian autocrat.
But in the United States' hope played a uniquely heavy role in making it into the nation it is today. Hope brought success and encouraged the country to take on some of the most profound challenges. For example, it took hope to build the Panama Canal and fly to the moon. Both, thought to be impossible in their time, would have remained so, had it not been for hope.
Today America struggles to make a government founded on a seventeenth document function in a twenty-first-century world. Ugly forces bring dark clouds of hopelessness casting gloomy shadows on the land, giving us the feeling of approaching dystopia. It would appear that our democracy faces annihilation by some at high levels of power and influence. But recently, the testimony before a Congressional committee of low-level election clerks who defended democracy in the face of threats and intimidations from a United States President revealed courage and gave us hope.