Hope is in the air. The word, at least. Following Barack Obama’s lead, everybody is talking about hope. And yet, the world seems mostly dark right now. Does that mean Obama is feckless? If so, a bunch of others are striving to be equally feckless, and there ought to be a whole lot of feck lying around here someplace. But there’s not because he isn’t. Hope is not the same as optimism. Hope is volitional, not calculable. Hope does in fact create its own energy and shape (in part) its own future. And it is in fact a hallmark of the United States at its best. William Sloane Coffin from Yale famously quipped that “he’s hopeful, but not optimistic.” That’s exactly right. The distinction is an important one.