I think I've heard the word "hope" more in the last couple months than I ever did my whole life in Sunday School. I've heard it both romanticized and mocked. The ideas of "hope" and "change" are clearly more controversial topics right now than anything else, such as national security or immigration.
This leads me to wonder - is there really something there? Can repetitive cries for "Hope" and "Change," with conviction, actually mean something? Common consensus says no.
But why are so many people flocking to these political rallies, full-well knowing that the only significant words uttered are those very two that've been echoing in their ears 24/7 already?
Let's examine hope for a second. Is there really anything negative about hope? How can anyone, ever, at any period of time, in any way insinuate that hope is a bad thing? I mean, Obama even covers his tracks here and says that if anybody warns you against false hope, "in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." Obama has discovered the untouchable political platform.
I suggest that there is something to this. Hope is actually a very powerful thing. There are few things more inspiring than possibility. Few things get our little fire going like the spark of hope. Our imagination, a powerful conduit between reality and dreams, is a very real thing and does not present as distant a connection as we sometimes let ourselves think. Our ideal existences are really just a sliver of a plane off of reality.
But the criticism is not of hope; it's of the quality of hope. In the Book of Mormon, hope is almost never mentioned by itself; the Lord asks for hope in specific things, in the Atonement, in a resurrection, in eternal life, etc. I think of my middle-school teachers, who were bent on pounding into our skulls that the sky's the limit and that we can accomplish all of our dreams, but that didn't really do anything for anybody who didn't have a specific dream. Did that make their advice wrong? I think that for those who have specific visions of what they want to accomplish, all of these cliche phrases and trite inspirations hold completely true.
Specific plans and crisp vision focus the wavering, general, blissful hope into something more powerful. It focuses the flickering, general rays of a dying flashlight to a powerful laser beam. Hope has a purpose, and it is not just to make us feel better. It is to get us to believe enough in our dreams to follow them. Not to get us to believe in someone else's mysterious vision/dream just for hope's sake.
To be honest, I've been kind of stirred by Obama's speeches. I don't think that this is a bad thing. However, I have not been stirred to vote for him, or to agree with his policies. I've been moved to think about the possibility of my own ideas and dreams. That is a valuable thing, regardless of policy. Is that a presidential thing? That, of course, is up to debate. I think that we can all learn several important lessons from this - hope is really actually a good thing. Don't walk past that lesson. But don't let that force you into a political stance, either.