How are we feeling about 2015? With what attitude are people approaching the new year? What do they expect from it?
Yuval Levin, founding editor of National Affairs, says, “Maybe you know the old joke that a Jewish optimist is one who says, ‘Surely things can’t get worse than this,’ and a Jewish pessimist is one who answers: ‘Sure they can!’ Those are the two sides of my thinking about 2015. But that said, I’m approaching the new year with hope, which is not the same as optimism. Hope is not the expectation that things will turn around for the better, but the belief that they can. It invites not passive anticipation but active repair and restoration. Our country has shown an amazing capacity to recover from setbacks because we’ve shown an ability to act on hope.”
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels says New Year’s is like opening day at the ballpark. “Optimism comes naturally, and that’s a good thing, as no other operating philosophy makes any sense,” he says. You can be “wary” about the economy, Mr. Daniels adds, “worried” about terror threats or “weary” of partisan animus, but you still return to the questions: “What nation would you like to trade problems with? What era of history would you like to move to?”
The historian Amity Shlaes, presidential scholar at The King’s College in New York, is looking forward by looking back. “The Coco Chanel Rule is worth recalling in 2015: ‘Nothing is new, it is just forgotten.’ It’s sometimes rendered as ‘Nothing is original except what is forgotten.’ ” Ms. Shlaes calls this “an astounding statement from a creator universally venerated for her originality.” She adds, “A good resolution for 2015: Humility in art. A second resolution: Cause the forgotten to be remembered.”
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Former Florida governor and possible presidential aspirant Jeb Bush sounded joyful in an evening email. “Regarding 2015, I am very optimistic. I think the DC political process might go back to working as it has for most of our nation’s existence. Regular order! Passing a budget. Allowing amendments to bills. Allowing the ‘ Nixon to China’ moments to go forward.” He said that he is “incredibly optimistic” about “our future because of the acceleration of innovation and technology in our lives. In spite of dysfunction in Washington, we are on the verge of being an emerging nation once again . . . dynamic, aspirational and young at heart.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is also in an up mood. He says a confluence of factors makes 2015 “the best opportunity to help the American people through legislating” since the 1990s. “First is the new GOP majority in the Senate, which happened with voters looking for a change in partisan gridlock. Second is the accumulation of big and obvious structural problems to address, from a nonsensical tax code to a self-defeating trade policy to regulatory overreach and a fiscal time-bomb. And, finally, a realization by both parties that although the recovery may finally be here, it is leaving too many behind and these structural problems are a major reason.”
My Wall Street Journal colleague Mary Kissel says: “I feel an overwhelming sense of relief to say adieu to 2014. I’m optimistic that next year will be better—how could it be worse?” She sees the possibility for “incremental reforms in the 114th Congress. Some reform will be better than nothing.”
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We got peppery energy pioneer and business magnate Boone Pickens on the phone from his office in Dallas.
He cleared his throat: “The media has given this goofy president a walk.”
He offered context for his mood: “What was it that did the most for the economy and got no credit? We had the cheapest energy in the world!” Also: “That’s a huge tax break for the consumer in America.”
He declared that he’s in an “upbeat” mood: “I’m a geologist and geologists are always optimistic because they drill so many dry holes, they better be optimistic.” The November election’s clear results raised his spirits considerably. “Then the goofball says ‘65% didn’t vote and those are the ones I represent!’ ”
Mr. Pickens said that, before the election, he was worried—“Have we lost America?” Asked if the country is rediscovering itself, he said, “Sure! America still belongs to America,” adding: “We have only another year of this bird to go.”
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Legendary editor, now historian Harry Evans is bullish on 2015 because of technology. A high point in 2014: He and his book, “They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine,” were a question on “Jeopardy!” “Now I’m excited by what’s called ‘the intelligence of things,’ machines talking to machines. Just watch!”
We caught former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino in a mellow, reflective mood. What she is feeling right now is “abundance of gratitude, and gratitude for the abundance we have in America—our freedom, opportunity, conveniences.” She is thinking that from abundance and gratitude must come generosity—“being generous in thought and word to all who cross my path. The more grateful I am for the abundance available in America, the more generous I can be—which lifts my spirits and brings me more love, friends and opportunities.”
The great Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth reports, “I am feeling good about 2015,” in part because of Pope Francis . “I am looking forward to the follow-up to the phrase ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ How will he top that zinger?” She’s looking forward to witnessing “the jockeying” among leaders on Capitol Hill if Francis accepts their invitation to address a joint session of Congress when he visits the U.S. this fall.
New York attorney Lloyd Green says he’s approaching the new year “extra hopefully.” At the end of a list of reasons, he adds, “Fishing. Heck, everyone should give fishing a shot. It’s about more than just the fish. There’s nothing like sunrise on the Atlantic on the open water. At that moment it lets me see the jolt of Creation, His majesty and sweep. And nothing beats fighting a fish and not knowing who is going to win.”
The writer Stephen Smith, former executive editor of Newsweek and editor of the Washington Examiner, is approaching 2015 seeing a return to social traditions. “I am heartened by the surge of young and old back to the cities, and by the radio-listening parties prompted by ‘Serial.’ People still want to be connected physically and culturally even as they connect online.”
Jeremy Shane, a Washington-based entrepreneur who has worked in energy, health and education, doesn’t characterize his attitude toward 2015, but shares some prophecies, saying that it will be “a clarifying year. The chaff will be separated from the wheat. The potentially vibrant will rise above the demonstrably decrepit, or be swallowed by it.”
We are seeing a confrontation “between new and old orders,” Mr. Shane says. Keep your eye on the anticorruption campaign in China—President Xi Jinping “will either professionalize the economic and local government elite” or not, but 2015 is the year “Xi breaks through or is neutered.” The outcome “will determine how the next 20 years go.” Another confrontation between new and old orders: “Pope Francis versus the Curia.”
Father Gerald Murray, pastor of Church of the Holy Family in New York City, sees the new year as, at bottom, another chance: “I look at 2015 as a new opportunity to make up for the wasted opportunities of the previous year. That prospect makes me glad that God has given me more time to get things right.”
Yes. Here’s to getting things right.