Ode asked celebrated activists, artists, business people, politicians and thought leaders to pick their favorite Intelligent Optimists, individuals who aren’t famous yet but should be because of the work they’re doing to bring positive change to their communities, their countries and the world. That’s how we got 25 reasons to be optimistic in these challenging times.
Jurriaan Kamp | Jan/Feb 2009 issue
I make it a habit to find inspiring, promising stories about new solutions and possibilities when I read the newspapers on Sunday morning. I usually succeed, although the optimistic news I’m looking for is generally hidden in the back pages. The front pages mostly report on whatever goes wrong.
The Sunday papers should make my job easier since they’re the thickest of the week. But today, it seems there’s really no good news. I read about failing banks, still more home foreclosures, the threat of deflation and looming bankruptcies in Detroit. Even the news about Barack Obama, only weeks ago elected on a surge of hope, is dominated by the seriousness of the economic situation. No story about him lacks a reference to the doom and gloom of the Great Depression.
I turn another page to learn that cafés in France are closing. More and more French people are deciding to buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket and drink it at home instead of going for a glass au zinc at their local café. Empty French cafés—that’s a really bad sign.
Pessimism and despair have taken hold of the globe. It’s the perfect time, I think, to enthusiastically announce Ode’s first annual list of 25 Intelligent Optimists.* It’s at times like these that optimism is more essential than ever. It’s easy to be an optimist when things are going fine. But optimism is a quality anyone can practice in every circumstance, especially during difficult times. Optimism isn’t about denying reality; it’s about creating a better reality than you’re facing. That’s why we dedicate Ode to “Intelligent Optimists.”
The Intelligent Optimist knows a half-empty glass is also half full. And she knows more can be gained by focusing on what she has than by focusing on what she’s missing. You learn to become optimistic by concentrating on things that give you a sense of satisfaction, and you remain an optimist by feeding those things to make them grow. Intelligent Optimists know that for every problem there is (at least the beginning of) a solution, and that the search for that solution can be inspirational in itself. At the same time, they’re not afraid of negative thoughts, which they realize help them stay realistic.
In the following pages, we present people who demonstrate, through their lives and through their work, what it means to be an Intelligent Optimist. To put together this special issue, we asked celebrated activists, artists, business people, politicians and thought leaders to pick their favorite Intelligent Optimists, individuals who aren’t famous yet but should be because of the work they’re doing to bring positive change to their communities, their countries and the world. These are women and men who show that anyone anywhere can make an important contribution. They’re dedicating their lives to issues beyond their immediate self-interest. The roads they travel are never easy, because they’re new roads they mostly have to build themselves. But their optimism helps them overcome the challenges they face.
One Intelligent Optimist was selected by our editorial staff from the many nominees presented by our Web readers. (Please see odemagazine.com/io for a list of all readers’ nominees.) All these Intelligent Optimists, as well as those who nominated them, serve as inspirational examples of people who’ve made many positive contributions to our common good.
May their inspiration spark some optimism in your life in these darker days. It’s a good time to enjoy a half-full glass in an imperfect world and know that optimism is a choice.
* We have 27 individuals on our list, since two couples are among our Intelligent Optimists, but we’re counting each couple as one.