This morning, The Today Show featured a US citizenship ceremony, complete with oath-taking by our new fellow citizens and a performance of “God Bless the USA” by country artist Lee Greenwood.
As I watched, I was filled with the pride of patriotism, but also admiration for The Today Show’s producers. In my eyes, they had just executed an ingeniously creative response to the divisiveness our country has fallen victim to in the weeks and months leading up to and coming out of the election.
Some of us at Zeus Jones have been talking lately about ‘new optimism,’ which is less about going through life like an overly cheery Ned Flanders than about uncovering creative possibilities using the resources readily available to us, and committing to following through to make things better.
From my perspective, The Today Show exhibited this sort of new optimism in response to the threat of political division to its strong viewership (The Today Show broadcasts from the liberal bastion of New York City, but relies on a shit-ton of eyeballs from across America for its ratings and the resulting advertising revenue).
Taking advantage of the high level of emotion surrounding the ‘direction America is headed,’ its producers shifted the conversation to something we all believe in; the opportunity our country offers is a beautiful thing, and more people should benefit from it.
The Today Show could’ve sensationalized the division, or retreated to the safe territory of crafts and celebrity gossip until it all blows over, but instead it took the matter in its own hands and did what it could to heal the wounds: put something sappy yet meaningful on the TV that helps us focus our hearts and minds on what we all agree makes this country great. It’s a small step, but every little bit helps.
The difference between new optimism and old is embodied in the Obama campaign’s shift from ‘Hope’ to ‘Forward.’ Let’s not just hope things get better, let’s roll up our sleeves and creatively tackle the big issues in order to improve our country for the long term.
Regardless of your political views, I hope you’ll be inspired by these words on new optimism from Barack Obama’s reelection victory speech in the wee hours of November 7th:
“I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”
(All the way at 20:45)
So let’s get to work!