01-22-2020  12:17 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

St. Andrew Parish Presents 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards

The awards are given to people whose service embodies the values of Dr. King, who used nonviolence, civil disobedience, and Christian teaching to advance the cause of civil rights in America

The Skanner in Step With Changing Times

Celebrating a history of service

Starbucks, Home of the $4 Latte, is Moving Into Poor Areas

Starbucks plans to open or remodel 85 stores by 2025 in rural and urban communities across the U.S. The effort will bring to 100 the number of "community stores" Starbucks has opened since it announced the program in 2015

Native American Curriculum Rolls Out in Oregon Classrooms

The state developed the curriculum, as required by Senate Bill 13, with the input of Native leaders for 18 months, but is still behind. A soft roll-out begins this month

NEWS BRIEFS

Nashville Airport Store Seeks Works by African American Authors

The store, a namesake project of Mrs. Rosetta Miller-Perry and The Tennessee Tribune, will open March 2020 ...

Annual “Salute to Greatness” Luncheon Celebrating Students, Community & Civic Leaders

Keynote Speaker: Ms. Rukaiyah Adams, Chair of Oregon Investment Council & Chief Investment Officer at Meyer Memorial Trust....

Grant High School Students to Read Their Own Work at Broadway Books

Local author and writing instructor Joanna Rose will lead thegroup of young writers at the event to be held on Wednesday, January 22 ...

AG Rosenblum Announces $4 Million Settlement with CenturyLink

Since 2014, Oregon DOJ has received more than 1,200 consumer complaints about CenturyLink ...

Black Guest at Downtown Portland Hotel Sues Over ‘No Party’ Promise

Felicia Gonzales claims the front desk clerk at the Residence Inn told her that all guests had to sign the policy, but she watched...

Murder trial begins in fatal Portland light-rail stabbings

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man charged with fatally stabbing two men who authorities say confronted him during a racist rant on a Portland, Oregon, light-rail train went to trial Tuesday, two years after the killings in a liberal city.Jeremy Christian has pleaded not guilty to charges of...

Oregon coast tornado causes minor damage

MANZANITA, Ore. (AP) — A tornado caused some minor damage to homes in Manzanita, Oregon, on Tuesday morning.The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Tillamook County Emergency Manager Gordon McCraw said the county got reports a little after 11 a.m. about a possible tornado. He said he took...

New Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz predicts success

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Eli Drinkwitz was saying all the right things after being introduced as the new football coach at Missouri, laying out his vision for the once-proud program with unwavering confidence and bold proclamations.Then the former Appalachian State coach made a minor...

LSU's Burrow, Auburn's Brown named AP SEC players of year

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is a unanimous selection as the offensive player of the year on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference football team.The top-ranked Tigers also have the SEC’s coach of the year in Ed Orgeron and the newcomer of the year in freshman cornerback Derek...

OPINION

Martin Luther King Day is an Opportunity for Service

Find out where you can volunteer and make a difference to the community ...

Looking to 2020 — Put Your Vote to WORK!

Ronald Reagan, who turned his back on organized labor and started America’s middle-class into a tailspin, has recently been voted by this administration’s NLRB into the Labor Hall of Fame ...

How Putting Purpose Into Your New Year’s Resolutions Can Bring Meaning and Results

Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set ...

I Was Just Thinking… Mama in the Classroom

I wrote my first column in 1988 for a local newspaper about a beloved Dallas guidance counselor and teacher that most students called “Mama” ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Court takes another look at Native American adoption law

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 1978 law giving preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving American Indian children was getting a second look Wednesday from a federal appeals court in New Orleans. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in...

Akim Aliu, who spoke out about racism, signs with Czech team

Akim Aliu, the player who helped prompt a new discussion about racism and coaching behavior in hockey, is heading back to the ice.Aliu signed Tuesday in the Czech Extraliga for the remainder of the season. He joins HC Litvínov with 14 games left in the season, giving him a chance to display...

Murder trial begins in fatal Portland light-rail stabbings

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man charged with fatally stabbing two men who authorities say confronted him during a racist rant on a Portland, Oregon, light-rail train went to trial Tuesday, two years after the killings in a liberal city.Jeremy Christian has pleaded not guilty to charges of...

ENTERTAINMENT

Oscar presenters to include Colman, Malek, King and Ali

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The winners of last year’s acting Academy Awards will return to the Oscar stage next month to present the coveted statuettes.The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that Olivia Colman, Rami Malek, Regina King and Mahershala Ali will present...

Rocker Ozzy Osbourne announces Parkinson's diagnosis

NEW YORK (AP) — Rocker Ozzy Osbourne says that he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a nervous system disorder that affects movement. The 71-year-old Grammy winner and former vocalist for the metal band Black Sabbath said during an interview on “Good Morning America”...

Weinstein defense points to 'loving emails' as openings near

NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein's lawyers want to use intimate emails from his accusers to try to convince jurors in his rape trial that any contact was consensual, the defense said Tuesday as an appeals court rejected an 11th-hour request to move the trial out of town. Opening statements...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Jeter 1 vote shy of unanimous, Walker also elected to Hall

NEW YORK (AP) — Known for two decades as No. 2, Derek Jeter is now linked to the number 1 — as in,...

Mexico begins flying, busing migrants back to Honduras

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Central American migrants who entered southern Mexico in recent...

Science Says: What to know about the viral outbreak in China

Health authorities are closely watching an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new virus that originated...

Science Says: What to know about the viral outbreak in China

Health authorities are closely watching an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new virus that originated...

New government in crisis-hit Lebanon, but protests continue

BEIRUT (AP) — A new Cabinet was announced in crisis-hit Lebanon late Tuesday, breaking a months-long...

Trump in Davos: Talking up economy, brushing off impeachment

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — President Donald Trump looked past the impeachment drama unfolding in Washington...

McMenamins
Ted Anthony AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Before the towers crumbled, before the doomed people jumped and the smoke billowed and the planes hit, the collective American memory summoned one fleeting fragment of beauty: a clear blue sky.

So many of those who remember that day invoke that detail. Last week, New York magazine, which has been running a 9/11 "encyclopedia" ahead of the 10th anniversary, added an entry for "Blue: What everyone would remember first." It chronicled nearly a dozen of the ways that Americans recalling 9/11 anchor their looks back with a reminiscence of blue sky.

No coincidence that the power of such an image endures. Blue sky is a canvas of possibility, and optimistic notions of better tomorrows - futures that deliver endless promise - are fundamental to the American tradition. In the United States, to "blue-sky" something can mean visionary, fanciful thinking unbound by the weedy entanglements of the moment. Off we go into the wild blue yonder.

But the years since 9/11 have dealt a gut punch to four centuries of American optimism. A volley of cataclysmic events - two far-off wars, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and, for the past four years, serious economic downturn - has worn down the national psyche. It's easy to ask: Is optimism, one of the defining pillars of the American character, on the wane?

"Some of the really big challenges we are facing are really starting to sink in with people," says Jason Seacat, who teaches about the psychology of optimism and hope at Western New England University. "You talk about that can-do spirit that used to exist, and it still can exist. But what I get a lot of is, `This is such a huge problem, and there's really nothing I can do about it.'"

Welcome to the rest of the human race, some might say. Europeans, who can enjoy their fatalism, have been known to poke fun at American optimism. And why not? You could argue that the virus of optimism was spread to this continent by supplicants beguiled by the vision of a land that promised brighter futures - presuming you left the Old World to pursue them.

Since the 1600s, when one of America's first Puritan leaders cast the society that would become the United States as a "shining city upon a hill," the notion that one can will a better future into existence has been a central thread of the American story. The Declaration of Independence enshrined as national mythology not happiness itself, but the pursuit of it - the chasing of a dream alongside life and liberty as the ultimate expression of self-definition.

It took root. This became the nation where getting bigger and better was a right granted by God, where the Optimists Club was founded and "The Power of Positive Thinking" became a bestseller, where you could bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun. "Finish each day and be done with it," American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson exhorted. "Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

Old nonsense, alas, has a way of loitering around and gumming up the works.

Last year, as we began a new decade, a Gallup poll found that 34 percent of Americans were pessimistic about the country's future - the highest number at the start of a decade since the 1980s began. Numbers from Gallup's Economic Confidence Index late last month were the lowest since March 2009. Most tellingly, perhaps, a majority of Americans - 55 percent - said this year they found it unlikely that today's youth will have better lives than their parents.

More anecdotally, when was the last time that popular culture produced a strong vision of an optimistic American future? We got those all the time in the mid-20th century, era of the World's Fair "Futurama" and promises of jet-packing your way to the office in the morning. But the Jetsonian view of tomorrow has become quaint, and today forlorn narratives like "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the zombie apocalypse drama "The Walking Dead" and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" dominate the American futurescape.

In the weeks directly after 9/11, optimism seemed on the rise for a time. The trumpet had summoned us again, and some people expressed a renewed sense of purpose. A high-stakes seriousness settled in. We spun tales of freshly minted heroes, gave blood, held benefits, told each other that hey, don't worry, things will get better. A national coming together and the accompanying resoluteness were, it seemed, feeding hope.

"In an odd way, for all its tragedy, 9/11 reinvigorated the sources of American optimism at a very particular time," says Peter J. Kastor, a historian at Washington University in St. Louis. "The problem now is recapturing that."

Today, politicians struggle to project the all-important optimistic outlook that will help them win elections and govern a cranky citizenry. Yet optimism is a must-have narrative for any politician looking to lead. And the most effective among them - the Roosevelts, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan - have built their images around optimism. "Morning in America," Reagan called it.

Political consultant Bob Shrum, who wrote Ted Kennedy's famous and optimistic speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention ("The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die"), says successful politicians deploy optimism as a tool to "expand America's vision of itself." The ones who endure, he says, "are people who help define and enlarge the American spirit."

The "Audacity of Hope" president used the meme Thursday night in his jobs speech to Congress after cataloguing employment problems and putting forward his solutions. "We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been," Barack Obama said. "So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work, and let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth."

Not everyone finds salvation in positive thinking. The cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an entire book in 2009 on the country's excessive optimism. In "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America," she assessed it this way: "Positivity is not so much our condition or our mood as it is part of our ideology - the way we explain the world and think we ought to function within it."

Ehrenreich identified an important point: There is a big difference between unfettered hope and the American brand of optimism. Hope, she asserts, is an emotion; optimism is "a cognitive stance, a conscious expectation."

And what, after all, is more American than a conscious, supremely confident expectation that things will turn out OK? That if we visualize the future, and are simply American enough as we forge forward, bright tomorrows will happen.

That may be the central challenge for American optimism at the dawn of the second decade after 9/11: figuring out how much of the dream should be about the clear blue sky, and how much should be about wrestling with the problems that percolate beneath it. A balance, in effect, between the promise of our tomorrows and the reality of our todays.

It's not like the future is going anywhere, though. It's been our comforting companion for too long, and blue-sky dreams have a way of clawing to the top of any American story. Even after 9/11 and the uneasy decade that followed it tested the optimism of so many, that's the thing about tomorrow: No matter what, it's still always a day away.

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Ted Anthony, assistant managing editor for The Associated Press, writes frequently about American culture. He covered the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-2003. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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