Here’s Why I’m Optimistic in 2020

January 6, 2020 Ellen Buchman

Insights from The Opportunity Agenda

After a year like 2019, I have to say that it was difficult to feel celebratory on the eve of a New Year. There is much to mourn – the state of our democracy, the ever-widening income gap, pervasive racism across all sectors, and the treatment of people of color, women, gender non-conforming and trans folks, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and religious minorities. 

And yet, even so and because of so many, there are reasons to be optimistic about the new year.

On the heels of such rich and invigorated resistance, I am heartened by the number and variety of voices calling out for justice and opportunity. And I am energized by what seems to be a shared commitment to raise our individual and collective vision, values, and voice to forge new possibilities in 2020.

People representing cross-sections of economic and social justice causes are uplifting the voices of individuals whose very lives are on the front lines of these struggles. Our partners and colleagues in cultural and social justice spaces continue to inspire us with important stories about the plagues of implicit bias and systemic racism in groundbreaking plays and films like American Son, When They See Us, and Just Mercy. And we are so proud to partner with them on these amazing efforts.

The resilience of immigrants who are #HeretoStay inspires me every day as they refuse to lose heart and faith in this country, even in the face of so many outrageous actions by the Trump administration.

I am optimistic because millions have been marching in the streets to uphold democracy, against war and in support of love. Because people all over the world are speaking out against hate groups and oppressive political regimes. And because people are coming together to denounce racism, sexism, antisemitism, white supremacy, and demagoguery.

Black Lives Matter#MeTooMarch for our Livesclimate activists, and so many others have created a new era of movements that will endure for years to come and will yield more engagement, and more game-changing narrative shifts in our society, politics, and ethos. 

I believe that we are creating and witnessing a period of renewed strength in protest movements, and a confluence of the voices and work of artists and activists that is special and will be transformative for our country in the 21st century.

My optimism is powered by feminists around the world who are standing up for intersectionality and the ideals of feminism and climate justice as they collaborate and connect the principles of feminism with the moral imperative to save our planet. It’s a cross generational movement too, with teenagers helping to lead the way, spurring people of all ages to demand action from corporations, government agencies and institutions.

I am reassured because the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Trump. This is a significant and historic move, and one which should give all of us who care about the Constitution and accountability some peace of mind. I’m heartened by the words of dozens of Representatives, civil servants, and political observers during this process, and I am proud of The Opportunity Agenda’s support for communicators insisting on protecting our democracy.

We at The Opportunity Agenda regularly witness how creative, culturally intentional, and collaborative communication strategies, combined with values-based messaging can move hearts and minds. On a personal note, because hearts and minds -- and eventually views -- changed in this country, marriage laws finally permitted me to marry my partner of 25 years last October. It’s another reason I can’t help but feel optimistic about the power of narrative and love, and the force for good that it can be.

We also know that we can speak and advocate more effectively, with a unified voice, if we actively listen to all the voices – particularly those who are directly affected – in our movements. And we should do so in the workplace, at home, and in all the other places we lead our lives. 

As The Opportunity Agenda’s new president, I am determined to continue our organizational efforts to catalyze and promote public narratives that move hearts, minds, and policy for lasting change. And to use my role and platform to uplift others, as I know that we are more powerful when we collaborate and are unified.

It is an honor for me to serve in this role, to share these reflections as 2020 begins, and to work together with you during these important times. With optimism on behalf of all of us at the Opportunity Agenda, Happy New Year!

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Ellen Buchman
President, The Opportunity Agenda