UK president sees the need for ‘irrational optimism’ and working as a community to improve Kentucky’s health

The health and economic issues facing Appalachian Kentucky are daunting, but still worthy of “irrational optimism,” as espoused by the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says in his most recent short essay.

Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC, who toured Eastern Kentucky with Capilouto and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers last week, had a daily motto for his staff while working in India, a place with even greater challenges: “Irrational optimism is a pre-requisite for sucess,” Capilouto writes. He says he saw the power of that in a day-long symposium on health issues sponsored by the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative started by Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear.

“Where so many see problems, Kentuckians see potential,” Capilouto writes. “Where others
place limits and barriers, Kentuckians see the promise of a brighter
tomorrow,” especially when they can work together. To illustrate that, he tells the story of a Denver minister he heard on a radio show.

“She was discussing the idea of what it means to be human; what it means to be part of a community,” Capilouto writes. “The
minister said she disagreed with the notion that God will never give
you more than you can handle. ‘God,’ she said, ‘will never give you more
than your community can bear or you as a member of a community.’ The
idea, of course, is that we all need each other. And we all have
responsibilities to each other. That’s what it means to be part of — and
partners with — community.” (Read more)

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