“The good old days weren’t always good. Tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” Billy Joel, from “Keepping the Faith.”
We just celebrated July 4 and America, though not yet perfect, is better off than it was decades ago.
How do we know? The numbers bear it out.
In his July 3, 2013, column, Jay Bookman of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes these figures: the U.S. murder rate has fallen by more than half in the last two decades, from 9.8 murders per 100,000 residents in 1991 to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. The Georgia murder rate is down from 9.5 per 100,000 in 1996 to 5.6 in 2011.
The national high school graduation rate is almost 75 percent, according to Education Week. That’s the highest rate in 40 years and up eight percentage points just in the last decade. Latino graduation rates are up 16 points in that time frame; black graduation rates are up 13 points.
Who wouldn’t want a less violent, better educated society? As Bookman says, there’s a whole education industry whose profits depend on “failing” public schools. Though our schools may not be where we’d like, they appear to be getting better.
Though people have very different viewpoints, even the most criticized institutions appear to be accomplishing something. There is reason for everyone, no matter your point of view, to be optimistic.
Bookman says the “America’s Going to Hell” crowd will find fault with these numbers, but the rational among us will pay them no mind. America is looking pretty good for 237 years old.
What will it look like in 10 years? Or 20 years? We know that things are changing more rapidly than they ever have. We know that some jobs of decades past are gone forever. We know that technological advances are making things obsolete the minute after we buy them.
How do we navigate this new world? We become good people. How do we do that? By helping others and thinking of others first and self second. We do it by being friendly, upbeat and optimistic. Before you say, “woe is me,” say, whoa! Then say, all in all, I have it darned good.
Next to Bookman’s column was one by Mona Charen , who is glad she lives in America instead of living in the many places in which people are taking to the streets to protest their standard of living. Egypt, Brazil and Turkey come to her mind.
Yes, there was much to celebrate this July 4. But, there is more to go.
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As things change, we often need to change as people. By all accounts, employers are looking for good people despite the high unemployment rate. Companies hire and lay off at the same time. They are not necessarily cutting for the sake of cuts, they may be transforming their culture. If you are interviewing for jobs, be yourself, but be upbeat about yourself and the situation you are looking at. Show your prospective employer that you can be innovative within his system. Show him not only that you are right for the job, you are right for the culture.
Employers want to know what you want to do, not just what you’ve done. Be creative. Show the employer you can be transformative. It may take practice for some to be themselves AND optimistic. If you have trouble being optimistic, remember Billy Joel’s lyric above. If tomorrow seems bad to you, look at figures Bookman quoted, and the goings-on in other countries that Charen cites.
Give natural optimism a go. You could be going places you never thought you’d see.