In the last edition of the Coastal Breeze News, we featured MIA student, Kevin Barry, who won the Optimist Club of Marco Island essay contest. From there, he went on to win the South Florida District Essay Contest as well. Printed below is his winning essay, minus the annotated bibliography.
Breaking News: Realism Trumps Optimism. Dream all you want, but my world is in a state of uncertainty, and this hopelessness will not wane anytime soon.
Globally, the polar ice caps are set to melt by 2040. The great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii is now three times the size of France. By the end of 2019, there had been more mass shootings in the United States than days of the year. Locally, my once-pristine Everglades are heavily polluted by phosphorus, nitrogen and mercury from urban and agricultural development. This provides a perfect growth method for fluorescent, toxic algae. Then, this guacamole-looking water is flushed through the estuaries, resulting in devastation to marine life.
On a personal level, my basketball season brought high hopes and dreams. However, for Christmas I received a fractured fibula in a tournament that brought my season to an end. A week later, the girl that checked all the boxes said, “I just can’t do this right now.” Soon, I will be leaving home to face an adult world of imminent student debt and an extremely competitive job market.
Okay, time out! My blood boils when we choose to think in this gloom and doom manner. Since when has such realism promoted anything other than complacency, lethargy and pessimism? Our challenges have always allowed optimists to achieve the innovative dreams of the future. Innovators believe that there are only two frames of mind: optimism and pessimism. You may say you’re a realist, but realists are just pessimists in disguise.
Is our world going down the tubes? Come on Man! Globally, time has shown that misgivings of the past are always outshined by successes of the future. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic killed 50-to–100 million people globally, 675,000 of which were Americans. With modern vaccines and treatments, it is a rarity to catch the virus, let alone die. Today, we have the highest standard of living in human history. Smartphones, self-driving cars and international travel are commonplace. We are more connected than ever before. One billion people are on Facebook, the United Nations has 193 member countries, and ordinary people are significant contributors to their government. When we realize that our world is getting better, we are able to dream.
Locally, Florida has over 200 days of sun annually, no income tax, and abundant cultural diversity. Currently, new stormwater treatment areas are removing excess contaminants from water before it is flushed into the wetlands. Legislators are now prioritizing environmental protection, making it paramount to our state’s booming economy.
As for me personally, society today has created an environment in which I can live and dream optimistically. With our unprecedented healthcare advancements, healing my broken leg is no longer a grueling endeavor but an exact and confident science. Colleges and universities around the country are more willing than ever to offer me sufficient financial aid. With the proper education, I will be able to rise up and find my calling. Organizations are keen to seek young people like myself, as we contribute renewed dreams and perspectives.
History is flush with examples of optimistic people setting their sights on a dream, even during the most difficult times. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, achieving the greatest scientific accomplishment in contemporary human history. They were able to dream amidst the adversity of Vietnam, race riots, and the Kennedy turmoil. It is clear that optimistic dreams and fulfillment do not require perfect soil to grow and flourish.
So how can I exude optimism and dream big in the face of my adversities? I am not saying I should stick my head in the sand and ignore my global, local and personal issues. Instead, I should seek to understand these issues and see them as a beacon towards positive change. These issues are the light I need to walk towards.
Dreaming is important, but having an optimistic outlook toward a positive end is the Holy Grail. I imagine a future where our oceans are clean, peace reigns supreme and children from every walk of life are given the power to dream. When we are young, we are innate optimists. I see a time when this positivity is never squandered by the gauntlet of adulthood. I picture a reality where we can band together as one to clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, solve the problem of gun violence, and trust that my children’s children will be able to visit a vibrant and beautiful Everglades. I hope that one day I can be part of one of those innovative teams fulfilling these dreams. Some may call it out of reach, but I call it optimistic. Let’s face it, pessimism is a complacent choice while… BREAKING NEWS… Optimism Trumps Everything.