Or that the nation would have a large and growing black middle class.

It would have seemed impossible that a black man, the child of an interracial couple, would become president of the United States.

I would not have predicted that the rate of college enrollment among Hispanics would exceed that of whites.

Or that more than 80 percent of Americans would have health insurance, most of it through government.

I wouldn't have foreseen that the Cuyahoga River would come to support 44 species of fish. And that over half our rivers and 70 percent of bays and estuaries would become safe for swimming and fishing.

Or that the portion of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood would have dropped from 88 percent to just over 4 percent.

I would not have believed our nation capable of so much positive change.

Yet we achieved it. And we have just begun. Widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, global warming, the corruption of our democracy by big money -- all of these, and more, must be addressed. To make progress on these -- and to prevent ourselves from slipping backwards -- will require no less steadfastness, intelligence and patience than was necessitated before.

The genius of America lies in its resilience and pragmatism. We believe in social progress because we were born into it. It is our national creed.

Which is to say, I understand your cynicism. It looks pretty hopeless.

But, believe me, it isn't.

Not if you pitch in.

Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Beyond Outrage," now available in paperback. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.