The relentless news cycle lurched through the holidays, with an ongoing government shutdown and President Donald Trump's decision to suddenly pull troops from Syria in an apparent break with US allies.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to have hope about the future of politics. Newsweek assembled the thoughts of former and future lawmakers and writers about why the American public shouldn't despair and where to go from here.
Author Irshad Manji noted that media producers prioritize negative stories, and cautions that there needs to be more balance.
“We in the media—because of our own need for eyeballs and clicks and profits—we’re not telling the healing stories,” said Manji.
“We’re telling the stories of the conflicts. We need to hear both.”
What follows are testimonials by Barack Obama, Stacy Abrams and others on how to actually make America great again, as Donald Trump has famously promised.
Obama starts off, drawing inspiration from Robert F. Kennedy.
"Robert F. Kennedy knew a thing or two about hope," Obama writes."Half a century ago, it was hope in the future, hope in people, hope in our capacity to do better, to be better, that spurred him to challenge a sitting president of his own party and challenge the conscience of a nation."
The 44th president observes that the world seemed steeped in chaos in the 1960s but Kennedy still projected hope.
"And through steel towns and crowded housing projects and windswept Native American reservations, Bobby reinvigorated an American spirit that was bruised and battered and still reeling from assassinations and riots and protests—and hatred," Obama notes.
Obama singles out the qualities that allowed Kennedy to make Americans hopeful for the future.
"He argued for unity over division, for compassion over mutual suspicion, for justice over intolerance and inequality."
Obama then looks to hopeful developments in our current moment, like the activism of the Parkland students.
"It hasn’t even been a year since a mass shooting stole 17 lives at their school, but less than a month later those students had helped to raise the age to buy a rifle in Florida," Obama writes.
"They’d lengthened waiting periods before purchase. A couple of weeks after that, they’d inspired hundreds of thousands to march in the nation’s capital and all across the country. And, of course, they haven’t won every battle, but online, in the media, in the streets, on college campuses, they have become some of our most eloquent, effective voices against gun violence, he says
"And they are just getting started. Who knows what they’re going to do once they can actually rent a car?"
"Ripples of hope. That’s the legacy, that’s the spirit, that Bobby Kennedy captured, standing on top of a beat-up car 50 years ago," he continues. "Those are the descendants of the men and women and children who reached up into the sky, trying to get a touch of hope."
Stacy Abrams, who came close to becoming the first black female governor in America, writes that she's driven by the singular need to eradicate poverty.
"What do I want? Why do I want it? And how do I get it? My primary goal is to eradicate poverty; I believe it is immoral and a stain on our society," Abrams says.
"And so when I despair or get angry, I take the time to think about how I can best achieve that goal—and then I get to work."
She slams politicians who sow fear to get elected and says that instead, diversity should be celebrated.
"Too often, our fear is sowed from an idea that our diversity is a weapon or a weakness. We must instead realize that our diversity is our strength; it allows America to be the rich and enterprising nation we are," Abrams writes.
Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy, also speaks about fear.
"I wish it were easy to change human nature. Fear motivates, but hope does too," Kennedy writes.
He points to the example of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who's persevered despite severe discrimination and violence.
"There is not an elected official who has been let down more often by people than he has—people who should know better and have his best interests at heart," Kennedy writes.
"He’s been arrested over 40 times and beaten and nearly killed. Yet he has lived, seen, fought and bled for the ability of the United States to change and become a more perfect union. There is value in that fight and pursuit."
The writer Irshad Manji dares readers to not instantly deride perceived ideological enemies.
"True story: A young hip-hop artist from Biloxi, Mississippi, wants the stars and bars in her state flag replaced by an inclusive and unifying design," Manji writes.
"She invites a supporter of the Confederate battle flag to her home, where they discuss his perspective. Soon after, he realizes that he cares more about defending her dignity than about preserving a symbol. He then stops flying his own Confederate battle flag. What sparked the transformation? Respect. The activist respected the flag-waver enough to engage rather than label him."
"Here’s a courageous exercise that more of us could turn into a concrete habit: When you’re being disagreed with, ask not how you can change the other person’s mind; ask what you’re missing about the other person," she concludes.
Other perspectives on hope come from actor and activist Don Cheadle, conservative writer Ben Shapiro, and historical Jill LePore.