According to Wendell Berry, hope is difficult, requires practice, but has the capacity to significantly shape our actions over time. Dr. Michael Lamb, Executive Director of the Program for Leadership and Character, elaborated on Berry’s “difficult hope” as part of a conference on “Is Hope a Virtue?” at Princeton University on February 7-8, 2020. Lamb earned his Ph. D. in Politics from Princeton in 2014 and wrote his dissertation on St. Augustine’s virtue of hope. He interviewed Berry during his time as a graduate student there.
Berry’s conception of hope has practical implications in our changing world, especially in relation to the health of our planet. In particular, Berry has shown that exemplars play a valuable role in inspiring and modeling the virtue of hope. “If you can find one good example,” Berry writes, “then you’ve got the ground for hope.” In his paper, Lamb elevated Berry as one such example.
Lamb’s work on Berry is part of a larger grant-funded project on “Exemplar Interventions to Develop Character” Lamb leads alongside Dr. Eranda Jayawickreme. The project supports an international, interdisciplinary network of scholars who are drawing on research in philosophy, psychology, theology, literature, and education to investigate the role of exemplars in character development.