Three Rolla High School students were recognized on Wednesday, March 20, at the Optimist Club of Rolla meeting for their essay contest submission that are published below.

The Essay Contest is sponsored annually by Optimist International to give young people the opportunity to write about their own opinions regarding the world in which they live. 

The approach can encompass a young person’s personal experience, the experience of their country or a more historical perspective. In addition to developing skills for written expression, participants also have the opportunity to win a college scholarship. This year's topic is "When All the World's Problems are Solved, is Optimism Still Necessary?"

Katherine Conaway, a senior at Rolla High School, was awarded first place.  Her essay was selected to represent the Optimist Club of Rolla at the East Missouri District competition. Conaway shall be attending the University of Missouri – Columbia in the fall.

Elena Bai, a sophomore at Rolla High School, received the second place award, and freshman, Angela Yang, at Rolla High School took home the third place award.

Presenting the 2018-19 Optimist Club of Rolla essay contest awards was Optimist Club President Matthew Butcher. Chairperson was Robert Barth. Essay judges were Donald Dodd, Mary Gillis and Corbin Kottmann.

Topic: When All the World's Problems are Solved, is Optimism Still Necessary?

Katherine Conaway, awarded first place.

Rolla High School 

The world is riddled with problems and sometimes it seems as if it’s only getting worse. Our icecaps are melting, there’s a hole in the ozone layer and animals keep going extinct. This is why optimism is so necessary. That “silver lining” ideal and “glass half full” outlook is what gets many people through the day. Without optimism, what’s keeping them alive? What is motivating that person to go to sleep and try again the next day? The sheer thought that better times are coming can keep hope and love in the hearts of people who otherwise would be lost.

But what if the world was perfect? What if there was no sadness or heartbreak that optimism is so badly needed for? There would be no political parties or religion to divide a nation. People could get all of the help they need, whether it’s academically or medically. No animal cruelty to disagree on. Never even the idea of outer beauty meaning more than that kind, amazing person within. Peace among all just like John Lennon thought about while he wrote Imagine. In the song he states “…no need for greed or hunger a brotherhood of man imagine all the people sharing all the world...” This song, because it was released in the midst of the Vietnam War, sparked such a strong reaction within society that it acted as a cry for optimism.

This song practically turned into the anthem for those who wanted nothing more than peace, especially toward America’s involvement in Vietnam.This song was so controversial to the government that it sparked a four-year effort to deport both Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. Since then, it has been played millions of times. This optimist anthem has also been played every year since 2005 in Times Square during the annual New Year’s ball drop in New York. Starting every new year with pure hope though, sparked one question that challenged the fundamental craving for optimism and if it would ever be needed in the perfect world.

I believe that even in the perfect utopian society, there would always be the idea that something could still be improved. The drive to open a business, or work with someone new to achieve a common goal will always exist. Without the optimism that the new business or comradery will succeed, there’s no drive to make it work. If people were just content where they were, then nothing would ever get accomplished.

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa and many more, have impacted the world through their messages and ideas of a better society. When people strive to be like them, it boosts their public image and also their self-confidence. Being an optimist also provides people with many habits that carry over into day-to-day life. Studies have shown that optimistic people tend to show more gratitude, volunteer more, smile more and are more forgiving. These little habits create the people who everyone want to be around, therefore, in the perfect society, everyone would be an optimist.

Being gracious to the people who lend a helping hand creates a chain reaction of kindness which leads to a more helpful society. Volunteering and giving back time, whether it’s at an animal shelter or helping someone carry groceries, it brightens someone else’s day. This makes that little fuzzy feeling inside grow and grow. It makes people appreciate what they have and being there for others lets that person know that they are not alone in their problems. When others feel as if they have someone to rely on, it gives them hope which is the foundation of optimism. That hope allows for that person to come out on top of that situation and smile more. Optimistic people can also see the good side of situations which helps with forgiveness. Seeing ways to get around and deal with an issue lets a problem stay in the past. Creating a happy environment is good for everyone and without that optimistic ideal, the perfect society wouldn’t exist.

With the face of positivity staring at you, it seems as if everything is possible. The world isn’t bleak and there is acceptance for all. I cannot see a utopian society where optimism isn’t necessary. In fact, I believe that everybody would be an optimist. Even when all the world’s problems are solved, the belief in one’s self is still incredibly important. Helping one another grow creates a chain of positive thinking and helps everybody involved. The want to strive and thrive will forever be more important than the small negative interactions even if the world’s problems are solved.

Topic: When All the World's Problems are Solved, is Optimism Still Necessary?

Angela Yang, awarded third place.

Rolla High School 

Optimism is critical for society to function, improve and, ultimately, thrive. Without it, there would be no hope for a better future and no determination to make the future better. With optimism, however, society can discover new sciences and technologies to fix its present-day problems. Furthermore, a perfect world with no problems is impossible, because problems will always arise from human interactions and natural processes. Therefore, in order to achieve near-utopia, optimism is imperative to solving present and future problems. 

Countless historical events support the idea that optimism is crucial to societal advancement. All nations have been involved in or affected by war, but with determination, they can flourish afterwards. The United States’ Revolutionary War is an example, in which America fought against her mother country, Great Britain, to gain independence. If the American rebels were not optimistic about their chance of success, they would not have had the motivation to fight and, eventually, win. In fact, several calls to action, such as Common Sense by Thomas Paine, helped motivate the Americans to fight for the cause. The victory established an independent country and a democratic system that would later prosper. Without determination,victory could not have been achieved, which is true for all conflicts. In many cases, a positive attitude can solve disputes, benefit the people, and advance society.

Other examples of optimism fueling past progress is the improvements of living standards through technological leaps and bounds. Starting from fire and primitive agriculture and moving toward metalwork and industry, innovation has pushed civilization through many critical historical periods. These milestones include, for example, the Stone and Bronze ages, Industrial Revolution, and Information Era. Determination has moved mankind to constantly improve its quality of life. This consistent advancement of knowledge and technology shows that optimism, not pessimism, has pushed humanity forward.

Optimism has enabled humanity to achieve major advancement in the present day, as evidenced by the high quality of life in many societies. For example, many Americans enjoy and benefit from a plethora of technological miracles. These miracles, however, came from hard work and determination derived from optimism. In the United States, optimism has been the key to overcoming from despairs, such as the Great Depression, World War II, and other setbacks. If the nation was pessimistic during those difficult times, all citizens would have given up and innovation would have come to a halt. Even worse, a sense of hopelessness would have run rampant and caused society to run backwards. With no motivation, the high living quality of many countries today would not have been possible.

Optimism in the present generates the confidence and imagination to dream for an even brighter future. However, pursuing these dreams will create new problems to be solved, and the dreams themselves can always be improved. Moreover, because the future will eventually become the present, optimism is necessary for solving both the current and future problems. The Space Age exemplifies our persistence to imagine the future. The frontier of space travel and exploration has fascinated humanity for ages, from Copernicus and Galileo to Einstein and Hawking. The 1950 -1970s Space Race has made major headway on exploring our solar system and beyond. However, humanity has not stopped yet. As of January 2019, the Chinese space program has landed on the dark side of the moon, an area not yet explored. Some countries are also sending rovers and orbital probes to gather information on possible colonization of Mars. NASA, based in the United States, has carried out multiple missions to search deep into the universe for possible planetary homes for mankind. A myriad of problems will be encountered in this journey of space exploration, but confidence and optimism will ensure great progress of this major undertaking.

With optimism, society can achieve near-perfection and solve most of its existing and
future problems. Pessimism, however, would not allow people to fix any societal plagues and issues. A world, regardless its size, will always have problems due to the complexity of humans and their interactions. Environmental events, such as natural disasters and diseases, also pose threats that must be overcome. Solving these problems has to be done with optimism and hope, because a world without optimism is a world in despair - which is in itself a problem. The famous Grecian myth, Pandora’s Box, describes many of plagues of the world, such as greed, pain, jealousy, poverty, and death, being counterbalanced with hope, that is, optimism. With this trait, humanity has been able to survive and overcome those evils and more. It is optimism that will continue to carry mankind into the future and make the future flourish.

Topic: When All the World's Problems are Solved, is Optimism Still Necessary?

Elena Bai, awarded second place.

Rolla High School 

The Importance of Optimism

We, as humans, are constantly working towards bettering the world. We climb mountains, explore ancient ruins, and work endlessly in labs full of chemicals, wires, and microscopes, all to craft a future where life is easier and more fulfilling. There may well be a day where all of these efforts lead to a world in which all of the major problems of society today are solved. Despite this, optimism is and will forever be an important value to hold in one’s life. Even as problems such as crime, social inequality, and disease are erased from even the most distant of memories, personal tragedies, such as the loss of loved ones, are an unavoidable part of life. Furthermore, if all optimism is gone and we lose the hope of achieving a better world, there will be nothing to spark the bright-eyed children of the future to explore the world and make the next big discoveries. Even in a world without problems, optimism is absolutely necessary to overcome the bad days that we all have as well as to make progress in the world.

Solving the world’s problems does not necessarily mean a perfect life for the people living in it. In fact, many of the problems to be solved by improving the world we live in, such as health and poverty, only constitute the bottom two layers of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans need things such as love and genuine connection to truly be satisfied with their lives. However, with every love comes at least some sadness, and many victories are achieved only through failure. Without optimism, people might never overcome the disappointments and grief in their life to go on to experience the joy that their life holds. This is not an exaggeration, as according to an article published by the Greater Good organization, optimistic people are, on average, better able to overcome life’s challenges and tend to live longer and healthier lives (“The Benefits”). Thus, optimism quite literally gives us the power to move on, whether one is living in the modern world or an utopian future. Even as our big problems start to disappear, the small things, those that define a human, such as love and belonging, will present personal tribulations that even people in a perfect world must overcome.

More importantly, even when we have cured all disease and there is no longer war, there will always be discoveries to be made and time machines to be invented. Optimism pushes us on to achieve greater things- it allows us to dream up the next revolutionary machine or seek answers to the great questions of the universe. Throughout history, optimism has inspired people who have changed the world and helped to shape it into what it is today. Charles Dickens is one such figure, overcoming his childhood and moving on to become one of the most recognized English writers in history. Dickens’s childhood was less than ideal and he spent years forced to work 10 hours a day in a blacking factory while his father was in debtor’s prison. However, in his early adult years, he discovered his talent for writing and published the Pickwick Papers at age 25 (“History- Charles Dickens”). Despite his success, Dickens did not forget his past and used his writing to argue against the evils of 19th century English society, where he and so many other children were forced to work in factories and poorhouses were a commonly accepted part of life. Without optimism, future generations would grow to accept the world, and never aspire to the depths of the ocean or the galaxies millions of light years away, just as Dickens might never have escaped the dimly lit room that was Warren’s Shoe Blacking factory (“Charles Dickens Begins Working”).

Optimism has always been the force that pushes the “Greats” of history, from Genghis Khan to Marie Curie, to accomplish what they did. The scientists, political activists, writers, and artists of the world have and will continue to draw upon their optimism to allow them imagine a better future and help achieve it, despite hardships and setbacks. The future is in much need of these types of people as ever, whether they work towards rediscovering ancient civilizations or composing masterpieces, as there will always be room for improvement. Even in a world where there is no disease, war, or poverty, optimism will still be needed to allow for even further progress, creating the future’s future, as well as helping people through personal hardships.