This article was originally published in the Washington Examiner.

Can we remain hopeful about the future of our nation on the Fourth of July? Can we remain hopeful when we have witnessed multiple shootings in the last two months, extremely high inflation with fears of a coming recession, skyrocketing crime in major cities, and even more extreme polarization following the overturning of Roe v. Wade?

Such events can foster a sense of despair and doubt about whether the holiday is even worth celebrating. But the story of our country has taught us that, despite adversity, the challenges this nation has faced and overcome create an even more durable and perfect union. Despite adversity, we should remain hopeful.

Independence Day is when we remember that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness animated the origins of our nation. Those memorable words in the Declaration of Independence also animate another guiding ethos of America’s society: the American dream. That dream of the United States as a place where people seek to live better, richer, and fuller lives continues to be an animating vision for the country, in which we can aspire for an ever-improving society.

Take just one instructive example: the story of Frederick Douglass and his famous July Fourth speech . In 1852, Douglass delivered a speech that is unparalleled in its condemnation of the horrors of slavery and the challenges of the times. Yet, despite seemingly insurmountable atrocities, Douglass was able to rescue the goodness and promise of the ideal that is America and maintain the hope that his message would be heeded. He hoped that the nation’s wrongs would be corrected — and his hope was ultimately vindicated.

Stories with redemptive arcs are especially powerful. The redemptive arc of our day corresponds more to a concept than to a person — that is, the concept of the American dream and America itself, which should be understood as inside of an imperfect but ever-evolving redemptive arc.

One redemptive arc can be found in the context in which Douglass spoke. But there are many challenges that fit a similar (if less fundamental) redemptive framework in which Americans and America have made progress. However, there are numerous problems to address in terms of race and other challenges. On this Fourth of July, we should think back on the redemptive arcs in American history and remain optimistic in our quest for a better future, while remembering that heights of achievement once unimaginable in the U.S. have nevertheless been reached.

We have the power to achieve. That important, optimistic ethos of the American dream is alive and well. In a recent Archbridge Institute survey, 8 out of 10 people reported that they have either achieved or are on their way to achieving the American dream. Only 18% of people reported that the American dream is out of reach — fewer than reported in 2020 (24%) and in 2021 (20%).

Furthermore, despite the materialistic caricature with which the American dream is often depicted, when asked about different components associated with the American dream, people ranked “freedom of choice in how to live” and “having a good family life” at the top. “Becoming wealthy” is the component least considered essential to achieving the American dream. We should take comfort in the knowledge that optimistic attitudes are broadly reflective of the American ethos as it exists in the lives of Americans today.

As an immigrant, I’m very grateful for the opportunities that America has offered me and how it allows me to live my own American dream. However, once again in American history, we are at a crossroads — faced with new challenges that must be overcome.

According to other surveys, polarization continues to be record-high, anxiety and depression have become more common, free speech is under attack, people are increasingly distrustful of democracy and each other, and business dynamism continues to decline (despite an uptick following the COVID-19 pandemic). In our own survey , people are optimistic about their future even while the majority reported being pessimistic about the future of the U.S.

Will the story of America continue to resemble a Rotten Tomatoes critique, where the audience score is vastly higher and more nuanced than the “expert” opinion? Or will the critics finally come to see that, despite its many flaws and challenges, people continue to love America and believe in its status as a land of opportunity?

Today, of all days, is certainly a good day to remind the public about America’s positive track record. Let’s celebrate the contemporary rays of hope that should encourage us as we move forward.

Gonzalo Schwarz is the president and CEO of the Archbridge Institute in Washington, D.C.

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