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Good Government

Government should be optimistic

“The West Wing”, Season 3, Episode 12: “100,000 Airplanes” (January 16, 2002)

SCENE: The team is gathered in the Oval Office. President Bartlett has told them that he wants to include something in his State of the Union speech to say that we will cure cancer. His advisers explain, one by one, why he can’t put that in the speech. Then President Bartlett turns to Sam Seaborn:

BARTLETT: Sam?

SEABORN: Yes, sir?

BARTLETT: Why shouldn’t I do it?

SEABORN: I think you should. I think ambition is good. I think overreaching is good. I think giving people a vision of government that is more than Social Security checks and debt reduction is good. I think government should be optimistic.


I watch every episode of the West Wing because, in each episode, there is one moment like this one.

This was written 18 years ago. The drumbeats of war in Afghanistan were loud. The World Trade Center site was still full of rubble. We couldn’t find Osama Bin Laden.

And Aaron Sorkin wrote that “government should be optimistic.”

Have we seen it yet – that ambition, that overreach, that optimism, rooted at the core of government itself? A government with faith in the people? A people with faith in the government?

Not in Washington. Not in Lansing. And, truthfully, not in ourselves.

Not yet.

In November, we get another chance to choose. One side wants us to choose from fear. The other wants us to choose from hope.

Be optimistic. Choose from hope.

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