The Science, Philosophy, and Psychology of the Mind

Sponsored by the Hope & Optimism Initiative


Want to Be More Optimistic? Consider the Triumph of Human Reason

For once, an optimistic worldview is the one sparking controversy. Paul Bloom thinks humans are not prisoners to their emotions, but have great capacity for rationality and reason. This makes him an anomaly among his fellow psychologists, and philosophers and neuroscientists, who often argue that we’re fundamentally and profoundly irrational. Paul Bloom is the author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Paul Bloom's most recent book is Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.

What It's Like to Be a Muslim-American Woman in the US Today

When she was nine years old, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh heard her first racial slur, from the mouth of one of her classmates. It was 2001, and 9/11 had just shocked and shattered the US's sense of safety. "I grew up through the worst forms of bullying, through an extremely low self-esteem, and it was very difficult for me to formulate who I was and what my identity meant to me," she says. So what was it like, 15 years later, being an American-Muslim woman in New York the day after President Trump was elected? Braced for the worst, Al-Khatahtbeh left her home and under the grey mood and matching skies of the day, was surprised by warm smiles and kind gestures from strangers in New York City. Even compliments on her headscarf. They were tiny exchanges that signified to her that there was a common understanding, and that hope was where it always has been — in other people.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh's book is Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age.

America’s Next Moonshot: Cut Poverty 50% by 2030

Optimism, as defined by economist Jeffrey Sachs, is more than just a translucent, faraway wish. It means having bold goals and acting on them—even if you have no plan or existing knowledge of how you'll get there. The US was once good at this: In May 1961, President Kennedy stood before Congress and announced that the US would land a man on the moon and bring him back safely before the decade was out. In the summer of 1969, that mission was achieved. If American politicians, scientists, engineers and the public could unite for the space race, then the same is unquestionably possible for the urgent humanistic causes of poverty, inequality, and curbing global warming, which will create millions of climate refugees this century. Optimism doesn't just require vision and determination—it needs a deadline, as JFK showed. By 2030, let's mobilize our optimism to cut poverty in half in America, and make a decisive move to renewable energy.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Jeffrey Sachs is the author of Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable.

How Going Blind Showed One Man the Light

If Isaac Lidsky had not gone blind by the age of 25, would he have graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, or clerked for two Supreme Court Justices, or created a technology company worth hundreds of millions of dollars? It is impossible to say. But it is difficult to imagine his life being any better with the supposed gift of sight. Indeed Lidsky says losing his sight was the true gift he received in life. Why? Because it showed him how literally everyone creates their own reality — even seeing the world, says Lidsky, is an act of creation. Once you learn that reality is yours to create, you will only want to create a better one for yourself.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Isaac Lidsky is the author of Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can't See Clearly

Optimism Is the Engine That Moves Society Forward

The news certainly doesn't portray it this way, but every year the world becomes a better place, says Kevin Kelly. There is currently an imbalance in our optimism and pessimism levels, because we feel that things are catastrophic, despite most scientific evidence pointing the other direction. In this inspiring stream of thought, Kelly reminds us that society is constantly making progress, and that innovation is the direct result of optimism. Civilization is not a sweeping, heroic enterprise, he says, it’s a constant creep forward, and you only have to look behind you to see how far we've come.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Kevin Kelly's most recent book is The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

The Universe May Not Have a Purpose — But You Do, Thanks to Science

The universe doesn't care about you, and the future is miserable. So begins theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss' guide to optimism. Optimism? You heard us right. We may never find meaning or purpose in the universe, but to assume that our purpose is interlinked with that of the universe is what Krauss calls the height of solipsism. Life is beautiful precisely because it's so temporary, and if anything helps us to be optimistic in a morally neutral universe, it's science. Asking questions and understanding what something is helps us realize the consequences of our actions. Armed with knowledge, we can make decisions for the common good. If that's not hope, what is?


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Lawrence Krauss' most recent book is The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far: Why Are We Here?.

Whether You Believe You Can or Believe You Can't, You're Right!

Life advice is awesome under one condition only: when it's being given by someone who has truly lived. That's Kyle Maynard defined. At 26 years old, Maynard became the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. He's an award-winning mixed martial arts athlete, best-selling author, and Arnold freakin' Schwarzenegger has described him as "the real deal." But Maynard didn't always believe he would have a life like this. He talks us through two key moments in his youth where he felt a sense of hopelessness, and shares how he shook fear and doubt, and found the mindset that has been his path to success.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Kyle Maynard is the author of No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life.

Is Hope for Weak People? One Man's Journey through Life with MS

When Richard M. Cohen visited the Big Think studio, he came in carrying a quote by Virginia Woolf. It was printed in large font, which seems an odd choice unless you know that Cohen is legally blind, one of the many consequences of the multiple sclerosis he was diagnosed with at 25 years old. Another is his fluctuating voice, a neurological symptom of the disease. Unable to read the quote, we promised to place it here:


"...how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul…" — Virginia Woolf, 'On Being Ill' (1926)

For Cohen, there is an unspoken element to the somber terrains that Woolf describes: the country of hope, which he only recently came to fully understand. Richard M. Cohen's new book, Chasing Hope, which chronicles his personal relationship with hope and faith, will be released in early 2018.

This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

"Us vs. Them" Thinking Is Hardwired—But There’s Hope for Us Yet

Robert Sapolsky has a bone to pick with oxytocin, or rather the public's perception of oxytocin. It is the love hormone, we've surely all read by now. It helps us bond to our parents, then to our lovers and later to our own children. An extra dose can increase empathy, goodwill, and understanding. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows, here's the catch: those warm fuzzy feelings are only generated for people you already favor. Oxytocin, represented more honestly, is the hormone of love and violence. Its effect in the presence of people you consider "others" is preemptive aggression, and less social cooperation. It creates distance as often as it bonds love, and we are hardwired for those social dichotomies.


Humans invent "Us" and "Them" groups wherever they look, whether it's on the basis of sex, race, nationality, class, age, religion, hair color—there's nothing we won't discriminate against, and we do it within a twentieth of a second of seeing someone. Are they an "Us" or are they a "Them"? The flaw in this hardwired thinking reflex is also its silver lining: it is ridiculously easy to manipulate. A racial bias can be duped by something so simple as putting a cap with your favorite sports team's logo on someone's head, for example. You can overthrow your brain's most primal reactions in this way but, as history shows, other people can also get in your head and manipulate the Us versus Them reflex to tragic and catastrophic results.

Robert Sapolsky is the author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.

The Science of Optimism: How Your Outlook Predicts Your Lifespan

Optimistic people tend to live longer than pessimistic people. That's true whether you're rich or poor, young or old, and no matter your race, says sociologist William Magee. As part of a five-year study on hope and optimism—a collaboration between the Templeton Foundation and Notre Dame, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania—Magee looked at what personal characteristics overlap with having an optimistic worldview. Are the well-educated naturally more optimistic? What about those who have a financial advantage in life? As Magee explains, reverse causality can obscure the relationship between education, class and optimism (does good education produce optimism, or vice versa?), but more immutable factors such as age, race, and gender paint a more realistic picture.

The Truth About Optimism, and How to Manage Your Biases

Think you’re not an optimist? Neuroscience begs to differ. Dr. Tali Sharot explains that 80% of people globally present with the optimism bias—even if they describe themselves as pessimists or realists. In a nutshell, the optimism bias is the tendency to think that the future will be better than the past or present, and to underestimate negative experiences, and overestimate positive ones. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but rather it's both: we evolved to be optimistic because our primordial ancestors needed to think that there was something better out there, beyond the cave, in order to survive, migrate, and evolve. Optimism is a powerful motivator and has proven health benefits, but it also has downsides. Here, Sharot explains that delicate balance, and how understanding the nature of our cognitive biases can help us better protect ourselves against failure.


This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored.

Tali Sharot's newest book is available for pre-order: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others.

Want the Benefits of Faith without Believing in God? Try Hope.

If faith is what bolsters the believers, could hope be a form of secular prayer? What is the difference between faith and hope, anyway? Philosophy professor Sam Newlands explains that while the two occupy the same categorical space, they are fundamentally different philosophical mindsets. Faith is fueled by a sense of certainty about an outcome, even if that conviction outstrips the evidence. Hope on the other hand can be cognitively inconsistent and still escape scrutiny: you can think something is highly improbable and still hope for it to be true. Here, Newlands discusses the intersection of hope and faith in a religious context: is religion without faith possible? Can hope manifest religious belief?


This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. For more from Sam Newlands, head to samnewlands.com.

Cornel West: Hope Is an Action We Can All Take

Institutions—governmental, religious, financial, even revolution itself—have a way of turning stale and sour. "Thank God for the history of the heretics and the blasphemers. That's my crowd," says Dr. Cornel West. Quoting from some of history and literature's greatest thinkers and doers, West presents a poetic lecture on the role of hope in America's past and its future, and how to make your voice matter.


This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. For more from Dr. Cornel West, head to cornelwest.com.

Cornel West: Hope Is Spiritual Armor for Fighting Righteous Battles

There is a spiritual war happening in the United States, and to be silent is to be complicit, says Dr. Cornel West. He takes his starting point at the elimination of arts programs under Reagan in the 1980s, and traces how that lack of spiritual nourishment has created a society of solitary nomads where once there was community. It has created consumers where once there were citizens. What must fill that emptiness is hope, West suggests—and hope not as a wistful wish for a better future, but as an enactment of a better future through action. Quoting from some of philosophy and music's greatest thinkers and doers, West presents a lyrical lecture on the role of hope in the battle over the soul of Americans, and American democracy.


This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. For more from Dr. Cornel West, head to cornelwest.com.

What Hope Actually Meant to Martin Luther King Jr.

Here's an exercise: If there's someone near you right now, ask them to define hope. Quickly. What did they say: was it motivational? Did it deal with future ambition, expectation, and desire? Historically, hope has not always had such sugary connotations, and at one point—not so long ago, actually—it was more about confronting suffering in the present than mentally projecting yourself forward to a time where you have overcome your suffering. Drawing from an 1886 painting by George Frederic Watts called 'Hope', which inspired Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1959 sermon 'Shattered Dreams', Andre C. Willis presents a view of deep hope, a method of facing adversity that is woven together from the African American Protestant tradition.


This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored.

Addressing Racism Means Educating Our Children Differently

There's no getting around it: we're all a little bit biased. But when do harmful implicit biases, like racial judgements, form? Developmental psychologist Lori Markson and her colleagues have identified racial bias in preschool children aged three to six years old. Despite learning that kids this age—both black and white—prefer white teachers, or that white kids trust black adults less, Markson is not pessimistic about the future of race relations—in fact she's the opposite. The more data we can collect on racial bias, the more information we have to develop strategies to close social divides. Based on the research she presents here, Markson outlines three strategies—diversity exposure, bias intervention, and cross-race friendships—that can help to end racist behavior in the next generation, and hopefully in the current one. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.


Prison Dehumanizes the Incarcerated—The Prison Project Brings Them Back

In the last 35 years, California has built approximately 22 new prisons, and the state has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The US's prison industrial complex has been called America's human rights crisis. So is it possible for prisoners have hope for their future? How do you retain your humanity in an inhumane system? Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actor's Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them the emotional tools needed to heal from the trauma of being incarcerated, and all the events of their lives before that. That was the start of the Prison Project, and a decade later it is operating in 10 prisons across California. How well has it worked? It has transformed prison yards. It has built bridges between gangs. Participants have just a 10% recidivism rate and in-prison infractions have dropped by 89%. Engaging in the safe and playful space of theatre is a way for incarcerated people to engage with their emotions, often for the very first time. The entire prison community is deeply interwoven and affected by each other, so the Prison Project is developing a program for correctional officers too, who are often highly traumatized by their experiences, and have highest suicide rate of any job. Sabra Williams runs us through the Prison Project, and introduces former-inmate and student Chris Bingley to share his personal story of reconnecting with his humanity while in prison. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.


Optimists Do It Longer: How a Positive Outlook Will Boost Your Longevity

It's not considered ultra-cool to be an optimist in today's culture. Too much pep comes off as naïveté and we're just one motivational poster away from self-implosion. But do you know what is cool? Living for a long time, with mobility, good circulation, and all your cognitive faculties. Numerous scientific, long-term studies have shown that this goes hand in hand with an optimistic outlook on life. The core difference for why optimists consistently outlive pessimists has to do with how each type copes with adversity. The former engages with their stress and takes action, while the later is less likely to seek positive change, and more likely to disengage with or deny problems. It's not just psychological either, your outlook on life is evident on a cellular level. In this talk for Hope & Optimism, Professor Michael Scheier describes some of these health-damaging and health-promoting behaviors, and provides a (frankly terrifying) list of ways pessimism can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Optimism is something you can learn, and knowing it can keep you in good health for longer is all the motivation you need to break negative thinking patterns. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism, a three-year initiative which supported interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored.

A Philosophical Guide to Coping with Life, Death, and Sour Grapes

Life throws us curveballs that test our ability to cope, but perhaps none is more curvy than the end of life itself. Philosopher Luc Bovens examines the idea of secular hope, the forms it takes, and the function of it. He asks: what does it mean to live a meaningful life, and is it possible to die as well as you lived?

This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. For more on Luc Bovens, go here.


What Psychiatric Wards Teach Us About the Nature of Reality

Novelist and author Yiyun Li tells deeply felt stories from her stay in a psychiatric hospital, after two suicide attempts. The patients Li shared space with taught her a great deal about living in a world that is sometimes lacking in apparent meaning, and how close reality and unreality truly are. For anyone who has ever felt that "patients running the asylum" is an apt analogy for human society, Li shares the stories behind individuals too readily dismissed or forgotten about. Whether in the field of psychology or politics, tension between orthodoxy and imagination will continue to exist. But if we can find ways to keep our imagination alive, we can thrive in a world that is calling out for answers. Yiyun Li's newest book is Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life


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How to increase your will power? Make a Ulysses pact with yourself

The only thing between you and your better self is your brain. Programmed to maximize short term reward, we often find ourselves struggling between what we want in the moment and what we'll gain in the long term if we forgo immediate gratification. As neuroscientist David Eagleman reveals, the ancient wisdom of Ulysses remains useful today as a way to contextualize current scientific research. Before temptation strikes, it pays to have a plan for when it arrives. By making a contract with your future self—as Ulysses did with his crew—you can avoid occasions of indulgence. And when you do give into immediate satisfaction, you can build in supports to keep it from wreaking havoc on your life.


This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at hopeoptimism.com.

Hope and Despair Exist on a Spectrum—Here's How to Move Toward Hope

Hope's reputation is so good, it's bad. People hear the word and dismiss it as Hallmark, doe-eyed, emotional fluff. But hoping is not the same as dreaming or wishing: it is constrained by rationality, and unlike fantasy the possibility has to exist, even if the odds are slim. As Professor Andrew Chignell explains: you can wish the weather had been nicer yesterday, but you can't hope it. Hope is a spectrum of how you react to possibility, and it runs all the way to despair. Here, Chignell explains his latest research in philosophy, mindfulness, and uses The Shawshank Redemption to illustrate how closely hope and despair are related. This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which has supported interdisciplinary academic research into under-explored aspects of hope and optimism. Discover more at hopeoptimism.com.

Stop Negative Emotions from Defining You: Welcome to The Actors' Gang

Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actors' Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them emotional training to recover from the trauma of incarceration, and the events of their lives that landed them there in the first place. With an incredibly low recidivism rate of just 10% among her students, Williams' experimental idea has proven its worth and now operates in ten prisons across California, which is where Sabra Williams met former inmate and Actors' Gang student Wendy Stag. Wendy recently shared her personal story of learning to cope with trauma and negative emotion at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.

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'We're doomed': a common refrain in casual conversation about climate change.


It signals an awareness that we cannot, strictly speaking, avert climate change. It is already here. All we can hope for is to minimise climate change by keeping global average temperature changes to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid rending consequences to global civilisation. It is still physically possible, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a 2018 special report – but 'realising 1.5°C-consistent pathways would require rapid and systemic changes on unprecedented scales'.

Physical possibility aside, the observant and informed layperson can be forgiven her doubts on the question of political possibility. What should be the message from the climate scientist, the environmental activist, the conscientious politician, the ardent planner – those daunted but committed to pulling out all the stops? It is the single most important issue facing the community of climate-concerned Earthlings. We know what is happening. We know what to do. The remaining question is how to convince ourselves to do it.

We are, I believe, witnessing the emergence of two kinds of responses. One camp – let us call its members 'the optimists' – believes that foremost in our minds ought to be the strict possibility of surmounting the challenge ahead. Yes, it is also possible that we will fail, but why think about that? To doubt is to risk a self-fulfilling prophecy. William James captured the essence of this thought in his lecture 'The Will to Believe' (1896): occasionally, when faced with a salto mortale (or critical step), 'faith creates its own verification' where doubt would cause one to lose one's footing.

Those in the other camp, 'the pessimists', argue that countenancing the possibility, perhaps the likelihood, of failure, should not be avoided. In fact, it might very well open new pathways for reflection. In the case of climate change, it might, for example, recommend a greater emphasis on adaptation alongside mitigation. But this would depend on the facts of the matter, and the route to facts leads through evidence rather than faith. Some gaps are too wide to jump, faith notwithstanding, and the only way to identify instances of such gaps is to look before leaping.

On the extreme ends of these camps there is bitter mistrust of the opposition. Some among the optimists level accusations of enervating fatalism and even cryptodenialism at the pessimists: if it is too late to succeed, why bother doing anything? On the fringes of the pessimist camp, the suspicion circulates that the optimists deliberately undersell the gravity of climate change: the optimist is a kind of climate esoteric who fears the effects of the truth on the masses.

Let us set these aside as caricatures. Both the optimists and the pessimists tend to agree on the prescription: immediate and drastic action. But the reasons offered for the prescription naturally vary with the expectations of success. The optimist has recourse especially to our self-interest when selling climate change mitigation. To present an optimistic message on climate change in the sense I mean here is to argue that each of us faces a choice. We can either carry on pigheadedly in our pursuit of short-term economic gain, degrading the ecosystems that sustain us, poisoning our air and water, and eventually facing a diminished quality of life. Or we can embrace a bright and sustainable future. Climate change mitigation, it is argued, is effectively a win-win. Proposals such as the Green New Deal (GND) are often presented as prudent investments promising returns. Meanwhile, a report by the Global Commission on Adaptation warns us that, although a trillion-dollar investment is required to avoid 'climate apartheid', the economic cost of doing nothing would be greater. Climate justice will save us money. Under this messaging paradigm, the specifically environmental dimension can almost drop out entirely. The point is the cost-benefit analysis. We might as well be talking about mould abatement.

This brand of green boosterism has little resonance with those who, like the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, subscribe to 'pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will'. Expect to fail, says the pessimist, try anyway. But why? The appeal of a return on investment loses its effectiveness in inverse proportion to the likelihood of success. Pessimists must make a different kind of appeal. In the absence of a realistically expected extrinsic benefit, it remains to insist on a prescribed action's intrinsic choice-worthiness. As the US novelist Jonathan Franzen put it in a recent (and badly received) New Yorker article on the question, action to stop climate change 'would be worth pursuing even if it had no effect at all'.

Right action for its own sake is usually associated with Immanuel Kant. He argued that human practical reason deals in imperatives or rules. Whenever we reason about what to do, we employ various prescriptions for action. If I want to get to work on time, I ought to set my alarm clock. Most of our everyday imperatives are hypothetical: they take an 'if-then' structure, wherein an antecedent 'if' underwrites the necessity of the consequent 'then'. If I am indifferent to getting to work on time, there is no need for me to set an alarm. The rule applies to me only hypothetically. But, Kant argues, some rules apply to me – to everyone with practical reason – regardless of personal preference. These rules, of right and wrong, command categorically, not hypothetically. I stand within their ambit as such. Whether or not I am indifferent to human weal or woe, it remains the case that I ought not lie, cheat, steal and murder.

Contrast this view with consequentialism. The consequentialist thinks that right and wrong are a matter of the consequences of actions, not their particular character. Though Kantians and consequentialists often agree on particular prescriptions, they offer different reasons. Where a consequentialist argues that justice is worth pursuing only insofar as it produces good outcomes, a Kantian thinks that justice is valuable in itself, and that we stand under obligations of justice even when they are futile. But consequentialists think that an ethical command is just another kind of hypothetical imperative.

The most interesting difference – perhaps the source of much of the mutual mistrust – between the optimists and the pessimists is that the former tend to be consequentialists and the latter tend to be Kantians about the need for climate action. How many among the optimists would be willing to argue that we must pour effort into mitigation even if it almost certainly won't be enough to prevent catastrophic impacts? What if it turned out that the GND would ultimately cost economic growth in the long term? What if climate apartheid is financially and politically expedient for rich countries? Here I come down on the side of the Kantian pessimist, who has a ready response: what's wrong with rapacious extractive capitalism, with climate apartheid, with doing nothing, is not, primarily, the long-term implications for GDP. It is a question of justice.

Suppose the baleful trends continue, that is, that our windows for action continue to shrink, if the scale of change required continues to grow unfeasibly large as we continue to wantonly pump CO2 into the atmosphere. Should we expect a shift from climate consequentialism to climate Kantianism? Will climate consequentialists start tacking on that small but significant qualifier, 'even if it's hopeless', to their recommendations? The disagreements between consequentialists and Kantians extend beyond their metaethical intuitions to their pragmatic ones. The consequentialist harbours a suspicion about the efficacy of specifically moral exhortation. This suspicion is the wellspring of a popular criticism of Kant's ethics, namely, that it rests on the Pollyannaish assumption that we mortals have a capacity for disinterested moral action.

Kant takes the concern seriously. The theme of moral motivation recurs across his writings, but he comes to the opposite conclusion from his critics. Many, he thinks, will rise to the occasion when their moral obligations are presented to them starkly and without appeal to their self-interest. 'No idea,' he argues in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), 'so elevates the human mind and animates it even to inspiration as that of a pure moral disposition, revering duty above all else, struggling with the countless ills of life and even with its most seductive allurements and yet overcoming them.'

Perhaps at the moment we still have the luxury of being strategic about our messaging. It is not yet clear that the worst will come to pass, and that we cannot, where plausible and effective, emphasise the potential upsides of mitigation. Besides that, different messaging strategies might be more or less effective on different people. But if the pessimist one day becomes too persuasive to ignore, it behooves us to have one more card to play in our pockets. Moral exhortation, the Kantian argues, is an insurance policy against fatalism. It is our reason for doing the right thing even in the face of doom, when all other reasons fail. But let us hope they do not.Aeon counter – do not remove

Fiacha Heneghan

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. Read the original article.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
  • One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
  • Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.


This video is part of Z 17 Collective's Future of Learning series, which asks education thought leaders what learning can and should look like in the midst and wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Protests around the world are demanding an end to police discrimination and violence against black citizens in America.
  • Author and activist Dax-Devlon Ross offers advice on how white people can help during this moment.
  • Ross's suggestions include thinking and voting locally, supporting black-owned businesses, and practicing self-reflection.

You never forget a gun being pointed at your head. In 1999, Dax-Devlon Ross and I were heading from Washington Heights to the Upper West Side for dinner. We stopped behind a van at a red light on 140th and Broadway. The back door suddenly sprung open. The gun was a foot from my forehead before those policemen even reached us. Another half-dozen cops appeared from a jump out van behind us. We were surrounded.

"Where's your bag?" one screams as I step out of the backseat of the car—Dax's girlfriend was in the passenger seat. I tell him it's uptown; I'm crashing there for the night. The fact they know about my bag means they've been tailing us for at least an hour. A young white guy just doesn't travel through that neighborhood with a black couple for any other reason than buying drugs. The police mindset, not ours.

After nearly strip-searching me in front of a gathering crowd on Broadway, they let us go to a round of thunderous applause. Not one cop offers an apology.

In St Thomas, a cop threatens to put a hole in Dax's head because, again, a white guy and black guy do not roll together. Then there's Hackensack circa 2000. Dax often picked me up to hike in Ramapo or Ridgeweood. We're pulled over twice within a few miles of each other on Route 17. Both times in upper class white suburbs; both times for no other reason than a Vanillaroma air freshener dangling from his rearview mirror.

Well, one other reason.

I've had many white friends push back against my assertion that implicit bias is real. Maybe I'd push back had I not lived through these experiences with one of my closest friends. You believe the victim when you see racism up close. These incidents are isolated for me; for Dax, it's been a lifetime indictment. Only now have we reached a tipping point that has forced the general public to recognize what's been happening for 400 years.

Dax has long worked in social justice and civil rights. In fact, we were both columnists for The Daily Targum at Rutgers in the nineties; he's been covering this beat his entire life. His investigative reporting has been featured in the NY Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, and The Guardian. Recently he published an important article that perfectly captures this moment in American history: "A Letter to My White Male Friends of a Certain Age."

On my podcast this week I asked Dax for three actionable responses white people should consider right now. Below are his responses.

EarthRise Podcast 89: An Honest Conversation About Race (with Dax-Devlon Ross)

Think locally

Do you know your local sheriff? We focus on big-ticket races. Down-ballot candidates are often skipped; otherwise, people choose an incumbent without further investigation. Ross believes it's essential to know who's running your neighborhood. Do they have a history of abuse? (This resource could help you find out.) Researching candidates for sheriff, judges, and other regional offices is important for changing the narrative.

We must also hold regional leaders accountable. For example, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has taken a lot of heat this week. When he was voted into that office in 2017, only 20 percent of the eligible population even bothered to cast a ballot. Today Garcetti announced that up to $250 million will be diverted from the police budget to address health care and education issues in the black community. That's a good sign, but we have to remain vigilant during its implementation, especially when considering the ongoing failure of the $1.2 billion homeless initiative passed in 2016. The effects of this week's protests need to be continually fought for until they're realized.

Support black-owned businesses

On his Netflix show, "Trigger Warning with Killer Mike," the rapper tries to support only black-owned businesses for a day. It's not as easy as it sounds. Ross found the humor in the episode, but ultimately, "it was also tragic."

Earlier this week, the LA Times published this list of 85 black-owned food services and restaurants. Ross takes it a step further: Who's your financial advisor? Your banker? Lawyer? If you own a business, how does staff diversity look?

"Maybe add some folks of color to that list of people you want to talk to. Sometimes white people implicitly assume 'white is right.' And a lot times white people are right. I'm just asking them to break it up a little bit, and think, 'How can I support businesses that are POC-owned and -led?'"

Considering how disproportionally blacks are being harmed during this pandemic—skyrocketing unemployment rate; higher death rates in the health care sector and general population—economic support is more important than ever. We Buy Black is a great resource.

Demonstrators attend a "Sit Out the Curfew" protest against the death of George Floyd who died on May 25 in Minneapolis whilst in police custody, along a street in Oakland, California on June 3, 2020.

Photo by Philip Pacheco / AFP

Do the inner work

"What's coming up for you?" Ross requests that you investigate previous relationships, incidents, and mindsets around black people. Has one bad interaction colored your thinking on the race? If you've used isolated experiences to dictate beliefs, you need to rethink your biases.

Education is paramount. Ross mentions a white friend who recently learned about Black Wall Street while watching an episode of "Watchmen." At first, his friend thought it was fake. After researching the incident after he was furious over his ignorance. A century later, Human Rights Watch found police abuse centralized in the exact same region of Tulsa. You can't change what you refuse to investigate. Change begins when you explore your implicit bias.

If this week has taught us anything, it's that we desperately need to change. And then keep going, and going, because America's horrific record—our tragic present—is on full display. Turning away any longer would be criminal. The can has been kicked far too long.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

  • Two lunar events will occur on Friday: a full moon and a penumbral eclipse.
  • A penumbral eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth's outer shadow, causing the moon to appear slightly darker.
  • The eclipse will only be visible to some countries, but the Virtual Telescope Project is providing a livestream.

The first full moon of June — known as the Strawberry moon — will rise on Friday, June 5. This year, the Strawberry moon coincides with another lunar event: a penumbral lunar eclipse.

What will the moon look like Friday? No matter where you live, it will appear unusually low in the sky. That's because the Strawberry moon occurs closest in time to the summer solstice (June 20), which is when the sun is highest in the sky.

The Strawberry moon may also appear unusually big. But that'd only be because of the moon illusion, which describes how the mind perceives the moon to be bigger the closer it appears to the horizon. This illusion can make constellations appear unrealistically large, too.

The penumbral eclipse may cause actual changes to the moon's appearance. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes into Earth's outer shadow, known as the penumbra. (Earth's inner shadow is called the umbra, and total lunar eclipses occur when the moon passes through both the penumbra and umbra.)

When a penumbral eclipse occurs, the moon may appear slightly darker than normal. But this year's eclipse will only be visible from "parts of Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America," the Farmer's Almanac reports. For people in North America, the moon will be below the horizon when the eclipse occurs.

Phases of the Moon

NASA

But the moon won't appear red or pink from any vantage point — the name "Strawberry Moon" is a Native American reference to strawberry harvest season. Other names for June's full moon include the Flower Moon, Rose moon, Planting moon, and Mead moon.

​How to watch the Strawberry moon and penumbral eclipse

The eclipse will start at about 1:45 P.M. E.T. on Friday. It will last for about three hours, but the best time to view the moon will be around 3:25 P.M. E.T., according to timeanddate.com. If you can't view it in person, check out The Virtual Telescope Project's livestream.

The next time a full moon coincides with a penumbral eclipse will be July 4. The first full moon of July is often called the Buck moon, and next month the full-moon eclipse will be visible from North America, though it'll be faint.

  • Initially, the vice presidency was a consolation prize for the runner-up in the Electoral College.
  • For a total of almost 38 years – about one-sixth of U.S. history – the office of vice president has been vacant.
  • As this map shows, Richard Nixon remains the only vice president to date born west of the Rockies.

    Hail Columbia

    \u200bLike the presidency of the United States, the vice presidency has its own flag, and its own ceremonial entrance march: 'Hail Columbia'.

    Like the presidency of the United States, the vice presidency has its own flag, and its own ceremonial entrance march: 'Hail Columbia'.

    Image: public domain

    Here's a strange fact about America's top executives that you may not have noticed before: the United States has had more vice presidents than it has had presidents. Trump is POTUS number 45, but Pence is the 48th vice president (VP) of the U.S.

    This map, found in the vaults of the Library of Congress, shows the birthplaces of all VPs of the United States up until 2009. A peculiar take on a peculiar institution. And one that invites closer inspection.

    Where VPs are born

    This map shows the birthplaces of all but three VPs: #32 (Garner), #36 (Nixon) and #37 (LBJ).

    This map shows the birthplaces of all but three VPs: #32 (Garner), #36 (Nixon) and #37 (LBJ).

    Image: Library of Congress - public domain; additional graphics by Ruland Kolen

    • Twenty-two VPs – close to half the total – hail from the Northeast. New York has had eight, more than any other state. Massachusetts and Vermont both have had three. This reflects both the demographic weight and the historical importance of the region.
    • The Mid-Atlantic region, from DC on south, has produced six VPs, two each from Virginia and North Carolina. That's surprisingly little for one of the earliest settled regions of the country. Until you take into account that Virginia has produced eight presidents and that the VP was often chosen to provide geographic balance.
    • In contrast, the Midwest has produced no less than nine veeps. That's down to just three states, though: Kentucky, which on its own has produced four – the second-most, after New York; Ohio, birthplace to three VPs; and Indiana, home state of two vice presidents (the map dates from 2009, so doesn't yet include Mike Pence, a native of Columbus, IN).
    • An equal number of VPs springs from the plains states further west, in what looks like an almost deliberately vertical line from South Dakota down to Texas.
    • Then: a whole lot of nothing. Except for a single pinprick in California. That's Richard Nixon, the first and as yet only VP born west of the Rockies.

    A consolation prize

    \u200bThe inauguration in 1873 of Henry Wilson (second from right, raising his right hand), Ulysses Grant's second vice president.

    The inauguration in 1873 of Henry Wilson, Ulysses Grant's second vice president.

    Image: public domain

    Vice president is the most useless job in the country, until it becomes the most crucial one: the VP is the 'spare' who steps up when the president dies or is otherwise officially incapacitated. For an office so often overlooked or maligned, it has had a curious history, and some interesting office-holders.

    The vice presidency was conceived in 1789 essentially as a consolation prize for the person obtaining the second most votes in the Electoral College. This virtually ensured that the president and his VP would be political opponents, as was the case with Thomas Jefferson, VP to John Adams.

    To make matters worse, the system short-circuited almost immediately. At the 1800 election, Jefferson and Aaron Burr got the same number of electoral votes. To avoid further iterations of the mess that followed – 36 votes in the House to determine the winner – the 12th Amendment created the current system, with electors casting separate ballots for president and for vice president.

    Formally, the VP's only major role is to preside over the Senate (and, if necessary, to cast a tie-breaking vote). Another vice-presidential duty is to open the certificates of states' electoral ballots. Four VPs – Adams Sr., Jefferson, Van Buren and Bush Sr. - have thus had the pleasure of announcing their own election as president.

    But more importantly, VPs are "just a heartbeat away" from the highest office in the land. Eight VPs have succeeded a president who died in office (and one a president who resigned).

    According to the original job description, the VPs themselves would get no successor in case they died, resigned or succeeded the president. And so it has been throughout most of American history. In fact, the vice presidency has been vacant for more than 37 years, about one-sixth of the total time. Approved only in 1967, the 25th Amendment finally allowed that the president appoint a VP to fill a vacancy, subject to approval by the House and Senate. That provision would be used twice in the following decade.

    The vice presidency has a rhythm of its own, slightly out of lockstep with the presidency. Two vice presidents have served more than one president. And several presidents have had more than one vice president. Elbridge Gerry already was the fifth VP to James Madison, who was the fourth president. The numbers would later sync up and diverge a few more times. The last president and VP with matching serial numbers (#32) were FDR and his first VP, John Nance Garner.

    Confused? Just to get our facts straight, and because who can resist a truckload of trivia, here are all of America's VPs so far.

    “A tranquil and unoffending station"

    John C. Calhoun, 7th VP of the United States.

    John C. Calhoun, 7th VP of the United States - and the only one to have resigned voluntarily.

    Image: public domain

    1. John Adams (°Braintree, MA), VP to George Washington (#1) from 1789 to 1797

    John Adams was the very first VP. His nickname was 'His Rotundity', for his size and self-importance. Memorable quote: "I am vice president. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything." More frankly, he called the vice presidency "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived."

    2. Thomas Jefferson (°Shadwell, VA), VP to John Adams (#2) from 1797 to 1801

    Jefferson would go on to become president after Adams but didn't mind playing second fiddle at the time: "The second office of this government is honorable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery." In a similar vein, he called his vice-presidential duties a "tranquil and unoffending station."

    3. Aaron Burr (°Newark, NJ), VP to Thomas Jefferson (#3) from 1801 to 1805

    When it became clear that Jefferson would choose a different VP for his second term, Burr decided to run for governor of New York. In that campaign, Alexander Hamilton, the founder of the New York Evening Post, made statements against Burr for which he demanded satisfaction. In a duel in 1804, Burr killed Hamilton. Murder charges against Burr were eventually dropped.

    4. George Clinton (°Little Britain, NY), VP to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (#4) from 1805 to 1812

    One of only two VPs to serve under more than one president. Also, the first of seven VPs to die in office. He succumbed to a heart attack in 1812.

    5. Elbridge Gerry (°Marblehead, MA), VP to James Madison from 1813 to 1814

    When governor or Massachusetts, Gerry gave his name to the practice of gerrymandering – creating weirdly-shaped electoral districts in order to ensure one's own party's victory. (The second part of the word derives from 'salamander'). Gerry was the second VP to die in office.

    6. Daniel D. Tompkins (°Fox Meadows, NY), VP to James Monroe (#5) from 1817 to 1825

    The 'D.' probably stood for nothing; Tompkins only added it to distinguish himself from another Daniel Tompkins at Columbia College. He founded Tompkinsville, on Staten Island. He paid so little attention to the (already minimal) job of VP that Congress docked his pay. Tompkins died of alcoholism 99 days after his term ended – the shortest post-office lifespan of any ex-VP. He also lived the shortest life of any VP, dying just 10 days shy of his 51st birthday. Yet he was the only 19th-century VP to serve two full terms under the same president.

    7. John C. Calhoun (°Calhoun Mills, SC), VP to John Quincy Adams (#6) and Andrew Jackson (#7) from 1825 to 1832

    The second (and only other) VP to serve under two presidents, Calhoun holds the record for tie-breaking votes in the Senate (31). He was the first vice president to resign, and remains the only one to have done so of his own accord. He did it in order to take up a seat in the South Carolina Senate.

    8. Martin Van Buren (°Kinderhook, NY), VP to Andrew Jackson from 1833 to 1837

    Calhoun got Van Buren's appointment as ambassador to Britain voted down, but this had the opposite effect of the one he desired: It killed his own career instead of Van Buren's, and Van Buren was chosen to replace him as VP. Van Buren was the only 19th-century VP who managed to get himself elected as president. The four others who succeeded to the presidency did so because of the death of the president.

    9. Richard Mentor Johnson (°Bryant Station, KY), VP to Martin Van Buren (#8) from 1837 to 1841

    During the War of 1812, he served under William H. Harrison in Upper Canada, where he claimed to have killed Shawnee chief Tecumseh. In 1836, he campaigned for VP with the slogan "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh". Johnson is the only VP elected under the provisions of the 12th Amendment, which states that if no candidate for VP receives a majority of electoral votes, the Senate shall decide. He was criticised for his relationship with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race slave, whom he nevertheless treated as his wife, also acknowledging the paternity of their two daughters.

    10. John Tyler (°Charles City County, VA), VP to William H. Harrison (#9) in 1841

    Tyler was the first VP to succeed a president who had died in office – Harrison spent only the last 31 days of his life as president. Tyler's nickname therefore was 'His Accidency'. His accession was contested. Some thought he could only become 'acting' president, but he set a precedent by claiming the presidency outright (including its five-times-higher salary). Memorable quote: "If the tide of defamation and abuse shall turn, and my administration come to be praised, future vice presidents who may succeed to the presidency may feel some slight encouragement to pursue an independent course."

    11. George M. Dallas (°Philadelphia, PA), VP to James K. Polk (#11) from 1845 to 1849

    Quite the expansionist, Dallas advocated for the annexation of all of Mexico and all of the Oregon Territory, plus Cuba. Several cities are named after him – although his connection with the naming of Dallas, Texas is disputed. The M. stands for 'Mifflin', by the way.

    12. Millard Fillmore (°Locke Township, NY), VP to Zachary Taylor (#12) from 1849 to 1850

    Born in a log cabin as the oldest of eight in a family of poor tenant farmers, Fillmore rose to become a successful attorney. As VP, he was ignored by President Taylor. Upon Taylor's death, he became president – only the second VP to do so. Fillmore managed to pass the 1850 Compromise, which defused the explosive issue of slavery for some time. Memorable quote: "May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not."

    The vice president who turned rebel

    \u200bJohn Breckinridge, 14th VP of the United States.

    John Breckinridge, 14th VP of the United States. Both the youngest VP so far and the only one to take up arms against the federal government.

    Image: public domain

    13. William R. King (°Sampson County, NC), VP to Franklin Pierce (#14) in 1853

    The only vice president to take his oath of office on foreign soil. He was convalescing in Havana when he took the oath in March 1853. King died of tuberculosis 45 days later, the third VP to die in office – although he never actually got to assume it. King remains the shortest-serving VP in history (with the exception of Tyler and Johnson, who went on to become president). He also was the only unmarried VP. For the last 13 years of his life, he lived as the roommate of later president James Buchanan. For that reason, Andrew Jackson nicknamed the two 'Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy'. King also was a co-founder and the name-giver of the city of Selma, Alabama.

    14. John C. Breckinridge (°Cabell's Dell, KY), VP to James Buchanan (#15) from 1857 to 1861

    The youngest person ever to become VP. He was 35 when elected, and 36 when he took office. Breckinridge was expelled from the Senate for joining the Confederate Army, and remains the only VP ever to have taken up arms against the United States. He was appointed Confederate secretary of war in 1865, fled into exile after the Union victory and returned to the U.S. only in 1869, after president Johnson's general pardon.

    15. Hannibal Hamlin (°Paris, ME), VP to Abraham Lincoln (#16) from 1861 to 1865

    The Republican party picked Hamlin, a Northerner, because they wanted to balance out the fact that Lincoln was a Westerner. Hamlin later said the announcement reached him during a card game, and that it had "ruined a good hand". Lincoln and Hamlin were elected before they even met. Memorable quote: "There is a popular impression that the vice president is in reality the second officer of the government not only in rank but in power and influence. This is a mistake."

    16. Andrew Johnson (°Raleigh, NC), VP to Abraham Lincoln in 1865

    Poor and widowed, Andrew Johnson's mother sent him and his brother to work as indentured servants for a tailor. After two years, they ran away. The tailor advertised a reward of $10 for their return. They were never captured. Johnson later set up his own tailor shop. Andrew Johnson was the only Southern senator to oppose Secession and retain his seat during the Civil War. The conspirators who assassinated Lincoln also wanted to kill his VP. The assigned assassin backed out, however, so Johnson succeeded to the presidency, the third VP to do so following the death of a president.

    17. Schuyler Colfax (°New York City, NY), VP to Ulysses S. Grant (#18) from 1869 to 1873

    Colfax was the first VP previously to have been Speaker of the House. Since the VP is president of the Senate, that made him the first of only two persons ever to have presided over both Houses of Congress. At the end of his term as Grant's first VP, Colfax's name was connected to the Crédit Mobilier scandal, which involved manipulation of contracts for building the Union Pacific railroad. He was also revealed to have accepted, while chairman of the Congressional Committee on Post Offices, a campaign contribution from a contractor who had supplied the government with envelopes. He retired under a cloud, but regained his reputation and a living by delivering popular lectures, among others about the life of Abraham Lincoln, whom he had known personally.

    18. Henry Wilson (°Farmington, NH), VP to Ulysses S. Grant from 1873 to 1875

    Wilson disliked his birth name – Jeremiah Jones Colbath – and changed it when he was 21. He worked for a time as shoemaker, leading to the nickname 'the Cobbler'. A strong campaigner against slavery, Wilson helped found first the Free Soil Party, then the Republican Party. He was a Union commander during the Civil War. In 1870, Wilson personally escorted Hiram Revels, the first African-American elected to the Senate, to his desk. As VP for Grant's second term, his effectiveness was limited by a debilitating stroke in 1873. Another one killed him in 1875, while at work in the Capitol. Wilson was the fourth VP to die in office.

    19. William A. Wheeler (°Malone, NY), VP to Rutherford B. Hayes (#19) from 1877 to 1881

    Quiet and widely respected for his integrity, Wheeler refused a salary increase as a Congressman. He was chosen as VP because as a New Yorker, he provided geographic balance for Hayes, who was from Ohio. Upon hearing of Wheeler's nomination, Hayes wrote to his wife: "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?" Despite this, Hayes and Wheeler got on well once in office – a fact so rare that it was remarked upon.

    20. Chester A. Arthur (°Fairfield, VT), VP to James A. Garfield (#20) in 1881

    Despite rumors that he was born in Ireland or Canada, he was actually a native of Vermont (and thus eligible for the highest office). Arthur did like to wear a green coat, though, to show his sympathy for the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish republican organisation. Memorable quote: "The office of the vice president is a greater honor than I ever dreamed of attaining." Yet he would go on to an even greater honor. President Garfield was shot four months into his presidency and died three months later, after which Arthur took over the job, the 4th VP to do so. The assassin composed a poem claiming Arthur had known of the assassination attempt beforehand.

    21. Thomas A. Hendricks (°Zanesville, OH), VP to Grover Cleveland (#22) in 1885

    Hendricks as Samuel Tilden's running mate for VP in the presidential election of 1876, in which they won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college by one vote to Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler. When he did win in 1884, as Grover Cleveland's running mate, Hendricks died after only eight months in office as VP. The fifth VP to die in office, Hendricks is the only VP whose portrait has appeared on paper money – on the $10 'tombstone' silver certificate issued in 1891.

    22. Levi P. Morton (°Shoreham, VT), VP to Benjamin Harrison (#23) from 1889 to 1893

    Named after his maternal uncle Levi Parsons, the first U.S. missionary to work in Palestine, Morton was a businessman, civic leader and one of the founders of New York's Metropolitan Opera. As Minister to France, he placed the first rivet in the Statue of Liberty in Paris in 1881. During his vice presidency, Morton's wife often performed the duties of the First Lady, following the death of President Benjamin Harrison's wife.

    23. Adlai Stevenson (°Christian County, KY), VP to Grover Cleveland (#24) from 1893 to 1897

    Grandfather of the more famous 1950s politician of the same name. When asked whether President Cleveland had consulted him about anything, Stevenson answered: "Not yet. But there are still a few weeks of my term remaining."

    24. Garret A. Hobart (°Long Branch, NJ), VP to William McKinley (#25) from 1897 to 1899

    Upon his inauguration, the Chicago Daily News predicted that "Garret A. Hobart will not be seen or heard until, after four years, he emerges from the impenetrable vacuum of the Vice Presidency." In fact, Hobart's future was even bleaker: he died in office, the sixth VP to do so.

    A bucket of warm 'spit'

    \u200bAlben Barkley, 35th VP of the United States:

    Alben Barkley, 35th VP of the United States: "The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk."

    Image: public domain

    25. Theodore Roosevelt (°New York City, NY), VP to William McKinley in 1901

    "I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president," Roosevelt once said. Also: "The vice presidency is not a stepping stone to anything except oblivion." Yet he accepted McKinley's offer to become his VP candidate. Roosevelt found presiding over the Senate so boring he often slept at his desk. He became president when McKinley was assassinated, the fifth VP to succeed a dead president. He was 42, making him the youngest president so far. He would subsequently win a presidential election for himself – the first of the 'accidental' presidents to do so.

    26. Charles W. Fairbanks (°Unionville Center, OH), VP to Theodore Roosevelt (#26) from 1905 to 1909

    A humourless man known as 'the Indiana Icicle', he did not work well with Roosevelt. When he was offered a chance to run for the same job four years after Roosevelt's term, he replied: "My name must not be considered for vice president. Please withdraw it."

    27. James S. Sherman (°Utica, NY), VP to William H. Taft (#27) from 1909 to 1912

    The first VP to fly in an airplane, and the first one to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. Nickname: 'Sunny Jim'. He was the first VP since Calhoun to be re-nominated for a second term, but he died a week before the election. He is the seventh and so far last VP to have died in office.

    28. Thomas R. Marshall (°North Manchester, IN), VP to Woodrow Wilson (#28) from 1913 to 1921

    Marshall didn't have a high opinion of his high office. Memorable quote: "Once there were two brothers: one ran away to sea, the other was elected vice president – and nothing was ever heard from either of them again." In another, he compared being VP to being "a man in a cataleptic fit; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; he is perfectly conscious of all that goes on, but has no part in it."

    29. Calvin Coolidge (°Plymouth, VT), VP to Warren G. Harding (#29) from 1921 to 1923

    Upon learning of his nomination for VP, Coolidge's wife Grace asked him: "You're not going to take it, are you?" To which he reluctantly replied: "I suppose I'll have to." When Harding died, Coolidge became the sixth VP to succeed to the presidency due to the death of the sitting president.

    30. Charles G. Dawes (°Marietta, OH), VP to Calvin Coolidge (#30) from 1925 to 1929

    In 1925, Charles Dawes received the Nobel Peace Prize for his World War I reconstruction work in Europe. Dawes is also the only vice president (so far) to write a hit song. In 1912, he wrote 'Melody in A Major'. This was later set to words and became 'It's All in the Game', a hit for Tommy Edwards in 1958.

    31. Charles Curtis (°Topeka, KS), VP to Herbert Hoover (#31) from 1929 to 1933

    Only later in the 20th century did presidential candidates get to pick his own VPs. For most of history, party machines picked running mates – often to the dislike of both candidates. VP Curtis gave his inaugural address in the Senate without mentioning Hoover. A few minutes later, Hoover returned the favor in his own presidential inaugural address. Curtis was the only vice president with significant Native American heritage. He was a descendant of Kaw chief White Plume and Osage chief Pawhuska.

    32. John Nance Garner (°Detroit, TX), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt (#32) from 1933 to 1941

    FDR used 'Cactus Jack' Garner as his enforcer in Congress. Garner memorably called the vice presidency "a spare tire on the automobile of government." Even more memorably, he said the office wasn't worth "a bucket of warm spit" – although that's not the actual quote: the press was too squeamish to write 'piss'. Garner was the second and only other person to ever have presided over both Houses of Congress.

    33. Henry A. Wallace (Orient, IA), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1941 to 1945

    Wallace co-founded the Hi-Bred Corn Company, still a globally prominent seed producer (as Pioneer Hi Bred International). He also founded the Progressive Party and was its candidate for president in 1948. One of its aims: universal healthcare. He received just 2.4% of the vote. Memorable quote: "Men and women can never be truly free until they have plenty to eat, and time and ability to read and think and talk things over".

    34. Harry S Truman (°Lamar, MO), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945

    Only when FDR died and he succeeded him – becoming the seventh 'accidental' president – did Truman learn of the Manhattan Project, so secretive was America's development of the atomic bomb. As president, Truman created the National Security Council, where such matters of national importance would be discussed in the presence of the VP. Memorable quote: "I enjoyed my new position as VP, but it took me a while to get used to the fact that I no longer had the voting privileges I had enjoyed for 10 years as a senator."

    35. Alben W. Barkley (°Lowes, KY), VP to Harry S Truman (#33) from 1949 to 1953

    Aged 71 at his inauguration, he was the oldest person ever elected vice president. His grandson suggested 'veep' as a nickname for his office, and the name stuck (despite his successor Nixon refusing to use it, saying it belonged to Barkley). On November 18, 1949, Mr Barkley married Jane Hadley, a widow half his age. He is the only vice president to have married while in office. When Truman stated that he would not seek re-election, Barkley wanted to run for president; but his bid failed because labor leaders found him too old (74 at the time). Memorable quote: "The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk." Final quote, in 1953, concluding a speech: "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty." After which he dropped dead.

    36. Richard M. Nixon (°Yorba Linda, CA), VP to Dwight D. Eisenhower (#34) from 1953 to 1961

    In 1952, vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon was accused of accepting money from large donors to fund his campaign. He saved his career via the 'Checkers' speech. Broadcast on tv, he claimed that the only gift he had kept was a dog of that name, for his children.

    "190 million and one bosses"

    \u200bNelson Rockefeller, the 41st VP of the United States.

    Nelson Rockefeller, the 41st VP of the United States. Ford also considered Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush for the job.

    Image: The White House - public domain

    37. Lyndon B. Johnson (°Stonewall, TX), VP to John F. Kennedy (#35) from 1961 to 1963

    LBJ started his career as a teacher, during which time he also observed janitorial duties, including mopping floors. He is the 8th and so far last VP so far to have assumed the presidency upon the death of the sitting president. Johnson took the oath of office on board Air Force One, just hours after JFK had been shot. He is one of only four people to have been a U.S. representative, a Senate majority leader, a VP and a president. The others are Tyler, Andrew Johnson and Nixon.

    38. Hubert Humphrey (°Wallace, SD), VP to Lyndon B. Johnson (#36) from 1965 to 1969

    One of five VPs to be elected to the Senate after his term. The others were John C. Calhoun, John C. Breckinridge, Hannibal Hamlin and Alben Barkley. Memorable quote: "The president has only 190 million bosses. The vice president has 190 million and one."

    39. Spiro Agnew (°Baltimore, MD), VP to Richard M. Nixon (#37) from 1969 to 1973

    Agnew had a knack for alliterations, calling Nixon's opponents "nattering nabobs of negativity", and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history". Agnew was the first VP with an office in the White House itself. Following the opening of investigations into allegations of extortion, bribery and income-tax violations relating to his tenure as governor of Maryland, Agnew reluctantly resigned. He was the second person to resign the vice presidency, and the first to do so under duress. Because he resigned a year ahead of Nixon himself, he was later also known as 'Nixon's Nixon'.

    40. Gerald Ford (°Omaha, NE), VP to Richard M. Nixon from 1973 to 1974

    Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., but his parents divorced and he took the name of his new stepfather. Ford was appointed by Nixon after the resignation of Agnew. He was the first VP to be nominated under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. After Nixon resigned, he himself became president, the eighth VP to succeed a president, but the first one to do so for reasons other than the death of the president. He is the first VP and the only president who never was elected.

    41. Nelson Rockefeller (°Bar Harbor, ME), VP to Gerald Ford (#38) from 1974 to 1977

    In 1974, when he assumed the presidency, Ford considered Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush as his VP, but eventually chose Nelson Rockefeller. He was the second VP appointed under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, straight after Ford himself. TV cameras installed for Nixon's impeachment trial were used instead to broadcast VP Rockefeller's inauguration – the first time cameras had been allowed in the Senate. A scion of the wealthy Rockefeller clan, the new VP had a net worth or around $1 billion, making him the richest VP yet. He was not very taken with the limitations of his new job. Memorable quote: "I go to funerals. I go to earthquakes."

    Previously, Rockefeller had been heavily involved in public life and politics, both domestic and foreign. At the UN Conference in San Francisco in 1945, he was instrumental in getting the UN to establish its headquarter in New York. The UN building stands on land he convinced his father to donate to NYC. As Governor of New York, he initiated so many building projects that his detractors said he had an 'Edifice Complex'. As a pragmatic, liberal member of his party, prepared to raise taxes and a committed internationalist, he was the ultimate 'Rockefeller Republican' – a species now virtually extinct.

    42. Walter Mondale (°Ceylon, MN), VP to Jimmy Carter (#39) from 1977 to 1981

    In 1977, Walter Mondale became the first vice president to move into the Naval Observatory, now the VP's official residence. Before, VPs had to find and finance their own private residences. Memorable quote: "When I was a young man, I used to dream maybe someday I could be an alderman. Instead of that, I became an attorney-general, a senator, a vice president, a Democratic nominee."

    43. George H.W. Bush (°Milton, MA), VP to Ronald Reagan (#40) from 1981 to 1989

    Bush Sr. was the first sitting vice president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected president. Memorable quote: "As his VP for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life."

    44. Dan Quayle (°Indianapolis, IN), VP to George H.W. Bush (#41) from 1989 to 1993

    In 1992, while visiting a school in New Jersey, Quayle corrected a pupil's spelling of 'potato', urging him to add an 'e'. Which he did. "I knew he was wrong. He's the vice president and I couldn't argue with him," said William Figueroa (12). Quayle certainly had a way with words. One of his more memorable quotes: "One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'". Quayle's hometown of Huntingdon, Indiana is the location of the 'Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center', the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the vice presidency.

    45. Al Gore (°Washington DC), VP to Bill Clinton (#42) from 1993 to 2001

    Thoughts about the office of vice president (before he accepted Bill Clinton's invitation to run as his VP candidate in 1992): "I have no interest in it. Might very well turn it down, indeed, and probably would." On the campaign trail, he joked about his wooden image: "Al Gore is so boring his Secret Service code name is 'Al Gore.'" Gore was the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, for his contributions to the climate change debate – the second VP to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

    46. Dick Cheney (°Lincoln, NE), VP to George W. Bush (#43) from 2001 to 2009

    When Bush chose Cheney as his running mate, both lived in Texas. Which is a problem, as the Constitution prohibits a state's electors from voting for both a president and a vice president from their own state. So Cheney changed his official residency back to Wyoming four days before the announcement was made. On 29 June 2002, Cheney was 'acting president' for just over two hours, while Bush underwent a colonoscopy.

    47. Joe Biden (°Scranton, PA), VP to Barack Obama (#44) from 2009 to 2017

    JFK famously was America's first Catholic president. Less well known is that Joe Biden was the first Catholic vice president.

    48. Mike Pence (Columbus, IN), VP to Donald Trump (#45) from 2017

    Birthplace not shown on map, which precedes his vice presidency. Pence was a Democrat early in life and has said he voted for Carter instead of Reagan in 1980. As VP, he cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, the first time a VP had to cast a deciding vote for a cabinet nomination.

    United States of America - Vice President Birthplaces

    Almost half of all VPs hail from the northeast. Only ten were born west of the Mississippi.

    Image: Library of Congress - public domain; additional graphics by Ruland Kolen

    Map found here at the Library of Congress.

    Strange Maps #1032

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