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Hope and Fear at Kids Philosophy Slam

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Ryan Adams, 16, is a finalist in next week's Kids Philosophy Slam in Washington, D.C. This year, the young philosophers debate this question: Which is more powerful, fear or hope? Adams lends Scott Simon his thoughts on the subject.


Which is more powerful, fear or hope? Next week in Washington, D.C., four high school students will answer that question at the Kids Philosophy Slam. The winner is awarded the title of Most Philosophical Student in America. Ryan Adams is a high school junior and a finalist in the competition. He joins us from his home in Long Island.

Mr. Adams, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. RYAN ADAMS (Finalist, Kids Philosophy Slam): My pleasure.

SIMON: And what do you think it is, hope or fear?

Mr. ADAMS: I believe fear.

SIMON: Boy, this is discouraging, but I want to follow your thinking.

Mr. ADAMS: Well, it doesn't have to be a pessimistic view. But most optimism and hope...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ADAMS: based in fear, because our mind makes subconscious decisions. I'm a junior in high school.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. ADAMS: I want to get into a good college, and I hope to get into a good college, but it's derived from a much more deeper, darker subconscious fear. If I don't get into a good college, society tells me that I won't get a good job. If I don't get a good job, I won't be able to support myself or my family. And if I can't do that, then I fear death, because if I can't support myself, how am I going to survive?

SIMON: Well, someone like Bill Gates walked out of Harvard and he's the richest man in the world now. I don't think he was afraid of much.

Mr. ADAMS: But on a grand scale, like relatable to every human, fear is an innate reaction we're all born with. Fear is present in all animals. Hope is only present in humans. And we've all heard the phrase, It's quiet, too quiet, because humans will always create fear, even regardless if there is nothing to fear. Just the fact that every day we wake up and we go, I'm not dead, we don't consciously think that, but in the back of our minds we do say, I'm not dead.

SIMON: But I have just surveyed the back of my mind and I tell you that's not in there.

Mr. ADAMS: Well, are you thankful you're alive?

SIMON: Yes, I'm thankful I'm alive.

Mr. ADAMS: Are you dead?

SIMON: Let me check in the control room.

(Soundbite of laughing)

SIMON: They seem to think I'm okay.

Mr. ADAMS: Are you dying in any immediate way. Are you bleeding constantly?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: No, I've got a little heartburn from the coffee.

Mr. ADAMS: So, aren't you happy?


Mr. ADAMS: Enough said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ADAMS: It sounds silly, but it really cheered up a bunch of my friends.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ADAMS: My friends who've been depressed, you know, oh, I failed a test. Oh, you know, I'm in a big fight with my friend.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. ADAMS: Are you dead? No. Are you dying? No. Then you should be happy. You know, everyone can hope. And if the whole world hopes, the world would be a much better place. But everyone tends to fear. And if everyone feared the way I do, the world would be a much happier place, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ADAMS: Because everyone would be thankful for not being dead.

SIMON: All right. Well, nice talking to you Mr. Adams. Okay?

Mr. ADAMS: My pleasure.

SIMON: You've picked up my spirits immeasurably. Good luck to you.

Mr. ADAMS: Thank you.

SIMON: Ryan Adams, 16 years old and a finalist in the Kids Philosophy Slam in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Some previous questions, by the way, have been: Is world peace possible or does human nature make war inevitable? What's more important, truth or beauty? And what is the meaning of life?

All we can tell you is it's 22 minutes before the hour.

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