Yes, the latest Gallup poll numbers showing the public’s lack of confidence in some of our country’s major institutions are distressing. A nation needs to believe that its political and economic leaders have the character and vision to lead the country forward.

But it’s not as if we haven’t been here before. America has survived hard times in the past, and it’s not Pollyannaish to say that we can do so again.

There have been various times when Americans wondered if our heritage of national optimism had come to an end.

That was the case in the 1890s and the 1930s, times of dire economic hardship. It was true in the 1960s, an era of social upheaval and the nation’s divisions about the Vietnam conflict. It was true in the 1970s, the years of Watergate, “stagflation,” oil shocks and the Iranian hostage crisis.

Dispiriting times, all. Yet in each period, our country managed to move ahead with confidence renewed.

Previous generations of Americans did not surrender to hard times and frustrations. They overcame them and built a stronger future. There is no reason why the current generation can’t do the same.

— Omaha World-Herald,

Nebraska, July 23

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