Quotations about   optimism

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Do not get lost in a sea of despair. You must not become bitter or hostile; be hopeful and optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.

John Lewis
John Lewis (1940-2020) American politician and civil rights leader
Stump speech

Lewis used variations of these phrases regularly through his career. Several abridged combinations showed up in social media:

Ours is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year--it is the struggle of lifetime. We must build a world at peace with itself.
[Twitter (14 Jul 2016)]

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.
[Twitter (27 Jun 2018)]

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.
[Twitter (16 Jul 2019)]

Added on 27-Jul-22 | Last updated 27-Jul-22
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I have no idea what your generation will be like. In mine we were to enjoy “Peace in our time.” A very well meaning gentleman waved his umbrella and shouted those very words … less than a year before the whole world went to war. But this gentleman was suffering the worldly disease of insufferable optimism. He and his fellow humans kept polishing the rose colored glasses when actually they should have taken them off. They were sacrificing reason and reality for a brief and temporal peace of mind, the same peace of mind that many of my contemporaries derive by steadfastly refraining from remembering the War that came before. All this was in my time, youngster — I hope not in yours.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“First Squad, First Platoon,” Dedication (c. 1947)
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Dedication to his unborn children, in one of his first (unpublished) works of fiction, while at Antioch College under the GI Bill. In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
Added on 25-Jan-22 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
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Some of you young folks been saying to me, “Hey Pops, what you mean ‘What a wonderful world’? How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.” Well how about listening to old Pops for a minute. Seems to me, it aint the world that’s so bad but what we’re doin’ to it. And all I’m saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love, baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah. If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems. And then this world would be a gasser. That’s wha’ ol’ Pops keeps saying.

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1900-1971) American musician
Spoken introduction to “What a Wonderful World” (1970)
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Added on 21-Sep-21 | Last updated 21-Sep-21
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but whotthehell archy whotthehell
jamais triste archy jamais triste
that is my motto.

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
archy and mehitabel, “mehitabel sees paris” (1927)
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"Jamais triste" means "never sad" in French.
Added on 18-Aug-21 | Last updated 18-Aug-21
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A pessimist looks at his glass and says it is half empty; an optimist looks at it and says it is half full.

Josiah Stamp
Josiah Stamp (1880-1941) English industrialist, economist, statistician, banker
Comment (1935)

There is substantial evidence that Stamp used this now-cliched phrase, or variations of it, on multiple spoken occasions in 1935, the earliest references I could find.
  • The Railway Service Journal (later Transport Salaried Staff Journal) mentions 1935 after-dinner remarks by Stamp: "After dinner, Sir Josiah Stamp defined an optimist as 'the man who looks at his glass and says it is half full,' and the pessimist as 'the man who looks at it and says it is half empty.'" [Source]

  • Similarly, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce Journal mentions a 1935 speech: "A pessimist is a man who looks at the glass and describes it as half empty, and an optimist is a man who describes it as half full. It is all a question of the point of view." [Source]

  • A New York Times article (12 Nov 1935) includes "I came recently upon a graphic distinction drawn by Sir Josiah Stamp between an optimist and a pessimist," followed by the phrasing noted at the top. [Source, Source]
Added on 5-Aug-21 | Last updated 5-Aug-21
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an optimist is a guy
that has never had
much experience

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
archy and mehitabel, “certain maxims of archy” (1927)
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Added on 4-Aug-21 | Last updated 4-Aug-21
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“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this.

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
The House at Pooh Corner, ch. 8 “In Which Piglet Does A Very Grand Thing” (1928)
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Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-21
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We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.

Elizabeth II (b. 1926) Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms
Address to the Nation (5 Apr 2020)
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On the COVID-19 Pandemic. The last line is an allusion to the famous WWII song.
Added on 17-Mar-21 | Last updated 17-Mar-21
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People who have never really wielded power always have illusions about how much those who have power can really do.

Thomas Friedman (b. 1953) American journalist, columnist, author
From Beirut to Jerusalem, ch. 8 (1989)
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Added on 5-Jan-21 | Last updated 5-Jan-21
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And however dark the skies may appear,
And however souls may blunder,
I tell you it all will work out clear,
For good lies over and under.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“Insight,” An Erring Woman’s Love (1892)
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Added on 26-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-May-21
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When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Invisible Monsters (1999)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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Man is a victim of dope
In the incurable form of hope.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Good-bye, Old Year, You Oaf, or Why Don’t They Pay the Bonus?” (1935)
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Added on 10-Jul-20 | Last updated 10-Jul-20
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Things never turn out either so well or so badly as they logically ought to do.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“The Future of the English Race,” Galton Lecture (1919), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1920)
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Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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Be like the bird, who
Halting in his flight
On limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet sings
Knowing he hath wings.

[Soyez comme l’oiseau, posé pour un instant
Sur des rameaux trop frêles,
Qui sent ployer la branche et qui chante pourtant,
Sachant qu’il a des ailes!]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
“In the Church of *** [Dans l’eglise de ***],” Songs of Dusk [Les chants du crepuscule], #33 sec. 6 (1836)
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Full French poem. Alternative translations:
  • Be like the bird that, on a bough too frail
    To bear him, gaily sings!
    He carols -- thought he slender branches fail:
    He knows that he has wings. [Source]
  • Be like the bird that seeks its short repose
    And dauntless sings
    Upon that bending twig, because it knows
    That it has wings. [Source]
  • Be like that bird, that halting in her flight
    A while on boughs too slight;
    Feels them give way beneath her,
    And yet sings, yet sings,
    Knowing that she hath wings.
    [Laura Sedgwick Collins 1890s song, "Be Like That Bird"]
  • Thou art like the bird
    That alights and sings
    Though the frail spray bends --
    For he knows he has wings.[tr. Kemble (Butler)]
Added on 7-Feb-20 | Last updated 7-Feb-20
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When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” (1930)
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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DRUMLIN: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

ARROWAY: Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American scientist and writer
Contact, film (1997) [screenplay by J. Hart and M. Goldenberg
Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Nov-16
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While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he was sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.

wells-you-will-have-been-cheerful-wist-info-quote

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
Apropos of Dolores (1938)
Added on 16-Sep-16 | Last updated 16-Sep-16
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By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage.

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
City Limits (London, May 27, 1983)
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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One day I sat thinking, almost in despair; a hand fell on my shoulder and a voice said reassuringly: cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.

(Other Authors and Sources)
James Haggerty (1909-1981) Press Secretary to President Eisenhower
Added on 9-Aug-16 | Last updated 9-Aug-16
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Hope for the best.
Expect the worst.
The world’s a stage.
We’re unrehearsed.

Brooks - were unrehearsed - wist_info quote

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) American comedic actor, writer, producer [b. Melvyn Kaminsky]
The Twelve Chairs, “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst”, chorus (1970)
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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On a recent Sunday evening, Theo came up with an aphorism: the bigger you think, the crappier it looks. Asked to explain he said, “When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in — you know, a girl I’ve just met, or this song we’re going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto — think small.”

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Saturday (2005)
Added on 5-Jul-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

Erin Hanson (b. 1996) Australian poet
“There is freedom waiting for you”
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Added on 4-May-16 | Last updated 4-May-16
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“Life is like a sewer — what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” It’s always seemed to me that this is precisely the sort of dynamic, positive thinking that we so desperately need today in these trying times of crisis and universal brouhaha.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
Introduction to “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer (1959)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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What was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment today — while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable.

Fansler - tomorrow - wist_info quote

Percival E. Fansler (1883-1937) American engineer, businessman, entrepreneur
Speech, First Scheduled Commercial Airline Flight, St. Petersburg, Florida (1 Jan 1914)
Added on 3-Dec-15 | Last updated 3-Dec-15
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My faith in the future rests squarely on the belief that man, if he doesn’t first destroy himself, will find new answers in the universe, new technologies, new disciplines, which will contribute to a vastly different and better world in the twenty-first century. Recalling what has happened in my short lifetime in the fields of communication and transportation and the life sciences, I marvel at the pessimists who tell us that we have reached the end of our productive capacity, who project a future of primarily dividing up what we now have and making do with less. To my mind the single essential element on which all discoveries will be dependent is human freedom.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
With No Apologies (1979)
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Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.

G. B. Stern (1890-1973) British writer [Gladys Bronwyn Stern]
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Apr-15 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 16-Mar-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-15
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If I should try to say anew the creed of the Optimist, I should say something like this: “I believe in God, I believe in Man, I believe in the power of the spirit, I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers.”

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 9-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 2-Mar-15 | Last updated 2-Mar-15
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We [Americans] cheerfully assume that in some mystic way love conquers all, that good outweighs evil in the just balances of the universe and that at the eleventh hour something gloriously triumphant will prevent the worst before it happens.

Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984) American drama critic and journalist
Once Around the Sun, “January” (1951)
Added on 12-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-14
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When you face the sun, the shadows always fall behind you.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)

Variant: "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow." Keller experts at the American Federation for the Blind have been unable to find a source for this quotation.
Added on 28-Oct-13 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 22 Dec 1903 [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 5-Jan-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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To the question whether I am a pessimist or an optimist, I answer that my knowledge is pessimistic, but my willing and hoping are optimistic.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) Alsatian theologian, philosopher, physician, philanthropist
Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography, Epilogue (1933) [tr. Campion]

See also Gramsci.
Added on 5-Apr-11 | Last updated 14-May-18
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When the skie falth we shall have Larkes.

[When the sky falls, we shall have larks.]

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 1, ch. 4 (1546)
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Added on 23-Mar-11 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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In youth our judgments are obscured by our hopes; in age, by our regrets.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982) American educator, novelist, poet
Maxims for a Modern Man, #144 (1965)
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Added on 7-Feb-11 | Last updated 28-Jan-22
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The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat — for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
Speech, Nobel Prize Banquet, Stockholm (10 Dec 1962)
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Added on 30-Jul-09 | Last updated 9-Jun-22
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An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)

He later changed this to "... concludes that it will also make better soup." (A Book of Burlesques (1924); also attributed to Chrestomathy.)
Added on 16-Nov-07 | Last updated 1-Dec-14
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Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 1 (1903)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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Every child comes with the message that God is not yet tired of the man.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Stray Birds (1916)

Alt. trans.: "Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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Every observation of history inspires a confidence that we shall not go far wrong; that things will mend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Young American,” lecture, Mercantile Library Association, Boston (7 Feb 1844)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Feb-22
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Don’t ever become a pessimist, Ira; a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun — and neither can stop the march of events.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-May-15
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