Choose Optimism

We can fix most political problems with a bit of old-fashioned collaboration

By Mike Jopek

About this time in the farming season I typically make the “next year” proclamation. Each season we have some kind of production issue with some crop, which lowers yield from expectations. This year’s record heat and drought reeked havoc on the traditional cold weather crops.

The chokecherries have turned deep purple but the fall season has not yet officially started. Yet simply judging by the size of the hops hanging on the vine, I’m hedging that the colder seasons are not too far away. The firewood is in the shed.

Each spring, farmers hope for the best growing season ever. And in many ways our farm optimism of a better, more prosperous, growing season is a reflection of our view of the world. I still believe that better days are ahead, that any generation of leaders can solve many of the daunting issues facing us as people.

Many of the most optimistic leaders of our time believe in better days. Presidents like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama inspired millions of new leaders with their positive visions of where we as a nation should go.

I disagree with some of the policies of each of these leaders but am in awe of their ability to remain positive even in the face of worldwide cynicism. Each of these leaders proved adept at moving a nation forward toward a vision, which they themselves manifest.

After spending too many hours outdoors in the blazing sunshine or indoors reading too many negative news feeds, I feel sarcastic. It’s a fun, easy outlet on a hot summer day. But over time snarky rhetoric does little to move us forward as a community. Pessimism by design leads to elevated conflict and political gridlock. It stops things, and that’s the point.

This is not to say that I won’t stand up for things I believe in like world-class education, foods free of weed killers, healthcare for all, property taxes that are affordable to the people who live in those homes, or vibrant downtown communities.

Folks are looking for leadership and know that plenty is askew in how Washington, D.C. portrays us as a people. The constant and bitter infighting does little to solve problems and often appears as a faux fight to raise political capital for reelection. But people are looking for pragmatic problem solvers and tire of the dogma of partisan politics.

A most optimistic leader in the Flathead Valley is Whitefish City Councilor Richard Hildner. Hildner is quick with a smile and always willing to problem solve.

Hildner is frequently seen at the downtown Whitefish Farmers Market holding a loaf of freshly baked bread or some local veggies to bring back home. He likes to talk with people.

Hildner is a retired schoolteacher and full of practical experience on how a government of the people works. Hildner is a marathon runner, hard worker, and a familiar local face. Hildner has much passion and motivation for the job. In politics, that’s as intoxicating as freshly harvested sweet peas sitting on the kitchen table.

Statewide I’ve marveled how politicians can look at the same economic forecast report and have polar opposite reactions and rhetoric. One view is that the end of the world is near; the other acknowledges how positively Montana is actually doing.

There’s plenty of naysayers to tear down society, but the optimist are the ones building new public schools or public buildings, they are the ones conserving public lands or rebuilding downtowns, and they are the ones who move us forward toward better days.

It’s time to embrace more optimism. We can start by acknowledging that we can fix most political problems with a bit of old-fashioned collaboration. It’s hard, I know.

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