by Kathie England

Hopeful Possibilists

“The Case for Hope” is the title of Nicholas Kristof’s opinion piece that appeared on May 9, 2024 in The New York Times. It’s based on his new memoir, Chasing Hope: A Reporter’s Life.

Kristof acknowledges that we are a divided nation with more than three-quarters of Americans believing we are headed in the wrong direction. Despite four decades of covering misery, he believes there is “both the reason for hope and the need for hope.”

Here are just a few of Kristof’s reasons for hope:

We have experienced “the greatest improvement in life expectancy, nutrition and health that has ever unfolded in one lifetime.”

“We are in the middle of a revolution in healthcare, education and well-being” that most people often seem oblivious to.

He believes that “journalism is an act of hope” because journalists “believe that better outcomes are possible if we just get people to understand more clearly what’s going on.”

“The most important trend in the world in our lifetime has been the enormous reduction in global poverty” with extreme poverty now just 8 percent of the world’s population.

“We are close to 90 percent adult literacy.” When Kristof was a child (born in 1959), the majority of adults in the world were illiterate.

We hear little about the AIDS epidemic today because the program started by President George W. Bush has saved 25 million lives so far.

Kristof believes that the dynamism and inner strength in America’s technology, culture, medicine, business, and education could even survive the re-election of a despot in 2024.

According to Kristof, Hans Rosling, a Swedish development expert, “used to say that he wasn’t an optimist but a possibilist.” He believed that better outcomes are possible if we worked to achieve them.

Kristof cites the example of Mukhtar Mai, an illiterate woman in Pakistan whose story he shared in 2004. She had been gang-raped as punishment for a supposed offense by her brother. Rather than disappearing as expected, she prosecuted her attackers who were sent to prison. She used her compensation money to start a school in her village where she enrolled the children of her rapists. Kristof said, “Mukhtar taught me that we humans are endowed with strength – and hope – that, if we recognize it and flex it, can achieve the impossible.”

Kristof stated that “despair doesn’t solve problems; it creates them.”

Who We Can Be – In August of 2022, I shared thoughts from Brené Brown about hope.

“Hope is a way of thinking – a cognitive process.”

“Hope is a function of struggle – we develop hope not during the easy or comfortable times, but through adversity and discomfort.”

“It is also important to know that hope is learned.”

Who Can We Be if we embrace struggle and develop hope through our adversity and discomfort?