Friday, January 16, 2009


So here I am, a staunch and loyal Canadian, doing something I never dreamed I would do, wishing something I could not have imagined wishing.
What am I doing? I am preparing exerpts from Obama’s speeches to present in a university class called Hope And The Helping Relationship. I will be using them to illustrate the points made in Eliott and Olver’s study of the discursive properties of hope derived from cancer patients’ speech. It seems an odd combination, I know, but the class will be taking place on inauguration day, and I can’t say I have ever seen a better example of the emotional, behavioural, relational and cognitive momentum that can be achieved through using a variety of word forms to make hope explicit. Hope is an adjective describing a noun: “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of Hope?” Hope is a noun. “It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.” Hope is presented as the emotion of hopefulness: “if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the
same hopefulness that I do -- if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine,
the people will rise …” Hope is a verb: “This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with
cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: yes, we can.”
Obama calls upon the temporal dimension of hope through stories stretching back hundreds of years. He enables the contextual dimension by placing his oratory firmly in the realm of current American politics. If you count out the charitable fund-raising campaigns and the pharmaceutical advertisements, it would be difficult to find anyone Who has ever made better use of hope. It’s the inspirational fire. It’s the multidimensional approach to the construct. It’s the perfect educational storm!
And what am I wishing? Well, as a staunch Canadian, it pains me to say it. This is atime of uncertainty. This is a time where the language of the leadership of my own country is the language of division, not the language of coming together. So here I am, wishing something I never imagined wishing. I’m wishing that I were an American, and only hoping to be a proud Canadian.
Mentioning hope, I have often heard it said that it is important to be realistic. This I do not dispute. But it seems to me that if you are faced with the need to be hopeful and realistic, and the challenge of placing one before the other, you can count on having them both if you start with hopefulness. For realism will follow hopefulness. Whether hopefulness will follow if you start with realism is open to question.

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