In his book Standing for Something, President Gordon B. Hinckley, a past leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addresses some neglected virtues that will help make our society and country a better place. Politics and the free press thrive on cynicism and negativity, often at the expense of our well-being. In his book President Hinckley offers the following:
"We are constantly fed a steady and sour diet of pessimism, faultfinding, second-guessing, and evil speaking one of another. The pathetic fact is: Negativism sells.
"Some writers of our news columns are brilliant. They are men and women of incisive language and scintillating expression. They are masters of the written and spoken word. Likewise, some television commentators are masters. But some seem unable to deal with balanced truth, notwithstanding their protests to the contrary. The attitude of many is negative. With studied art, they pour out vinegar of invective and anger, judging as if all wisdom belonged to them. Under the guise of analysis and informed opinion, they frequently dwell on their subjects' failings rather than their strengths. If we took such pundits seriously, we might think the whole nation and indeed the whole world was going down the drain. There have been times when a particularly heavy dose of such cynicism has caused me to reflect that surely this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker!"
We see this everyday in the media and online. When pushing a cause or a candidate, or even just reporting on them, we often take the path of least resistance highlighting the negative rather than the positive. If we can make someone or something else sound bad enough, then we assume that our stock will increase. Unfortunately, the result is not so good. Cynicism may help your idea win the day, but the cynicism remains, its acidic effect lingering.
As a people we need to spend more time seeking out that, which is good amongst us. Our culture and our history lend themselves to the twin virtues of hard work and success. Our challenges are real. Today our economy is struggling and people are suffering. The family is under attack weakening the foundation of our society. As a nation we struggle to define the role of the government and the liberties of the people. On the global stage we continue to experience unrest and war. Take the time to pause, however, and think of our capacity for good, our capacity to meet our challenges and to correct our course. President Hinckley, in the same chapter wrote:
“What might become of this land if we spoke less of its weaknesses and more of its goodness and strength, its capacity and potential? Without doubt, we shall have days of trial. So long as we have more politicians than statesmen, we shall have problems. But if we will turn our time and talents away from vituperative criticism, away from constantly looking for evil, and will emphasize instead the greater good, America will continue to go forward with the blessing of the Almighty and stand as an ensign of strength and peace and generosity to all the world. This is a great land, a choice land, a chosen land.”
Our current round of political campaigning is full of this negativism and the level likely will increase. We live in a country of entrepreneurs who are willing to take risk in an effort to succeed. They bring with them their ingenuity and creativity. Our people have a heritage of hard work, of starting fresh, and restoring hope. Our Constitution, our form of government, places the responsibility for our success or failure upon our own heads. We can make the necessary changes; we can make the required adjustments. Elections and political campaigns should be based on hope and optimism; hope for a tomorrow better than today.
Optimism is of greatest value when combined with a healthy dose of reality. We must work first to understand our problems. Second we need to seek the best solutions to those problems. Third, we need to move forward with the faith that we and those we elect can solve those problems.
This current election cycle we face some serious choices. America has suffered some significant setbacks, mostly of our own making. Our current leadership, in my opinion, is not qualified to fix the problems. The change promised either wasn’t delivered or turned out to be something we didn’t expect. It seems that some holding political office today have given up on the optimism, on the idea that America is and should be something special. We can recover and rebuild and regain our forward momentum but we need leaders with the necessary optimism.
Beyond the elections we must realize that the overwhelming bulk of our success must occur independent of our government and elected officials. Our government should only serve as a referee in a system that allows us to pursue our interests freely. It is our responsibility to do the work, to take the risks, and to succeed.
President Hinckley continued:
“What I am suggesting is that we have had missing from our society a buoyant spirit of optimism. What I am asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our culture and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live; that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults; that optimism replace pessimism; that uncertainty and worry be pushed aside by an enduring feeling of hope.”
As we work to select the next President of the United States, let’s find the candidate who is a statesman, who loves America, who has optimism for her future, and who has a record of success to deal with the challenges at hand. As we work to select our representatives in Congress, let’s look for the same. Let each of us engage in the civil life of this country to solve our problems and make things better. Let us support our free market system and elevate the value of ingenuity, hard work, and success. Let us celebrate the value of the individual and the contributions of the individual. Let us work and compete together with shared values of honesty and fair play. We are no more limited today in our possibilities and opportunities than at any other time in our history as a nation.
We should speak out for our causes; we should do so with passion and decisiveness. We should refrain from crushing negativism and instead embrace optimism. We should support the candidates who represent our values and have the best chances of making a positive difference. We should maintain civility in our discussions and mutual respect for those with different opinions.
I don’t believe that our best days are behind us. To admit that would be to admit that we’ve failed and that success is no longer possible. I believe success, for us and our posterity, is possible. I believe our best days are ahead of us. I believe we are up to the challenge, that we have the right people with the right skills and virtues to push us forward. I believe God Almighty has blessed this land and its people. It is up to us to seek out the blessing, to work for it and to be worthy of it. The choice is ours.