Star Editorial: Plenty to cheer in 2016

Thursday, January 5, 2017 - 13:30

Happy New Year!

We hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season and are ready for all that 2017 has in store.

The past 12 months have gotten a pretty bad rap lately. In fact, if you ask the Internet you’ll likely find thousands of memes and millions of tweets calling 2016 the “worst year ever.”

The past year did indeed bring some troubling and often tragic news. Terror attacks and war again dominated the headlines, with the conflict in Syria continuing to be a major impediment to world peace. Numerous celebrities died, including some who went too soon and others who were cultural icons whose work won’t soon be forgotten.

Of course, the presidential election also caused great divisiveness here in the U.S., and trying to stitch our divided nation back together will be no easy task.

But was 2016 really the worst ever? When it comes to ingenuity and inspiration, one could easily argue the year was one of the finest we’ve seen. Don’t think so? Consider the ways the world has changed since this time last year before making a decision.

— In January 2016, the Ebola virus was still killing people in West Africa, and the outbreak threatened to become a global pandemic. But by the end of the year, researchers had announced they’d discovered a vaccine.

— In February, the leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches met to patch a schism that had lingered between the two branches of Christianity for nearly 1,000 years.

— In September, the U.S. and China agreed to ratify the Paris global climate agreement. Between them, these two countries produce 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. No matter where you stand on global warming, the idea that we should be pumping less contaminants into the air is something pretty much everyone can agree on.

— Engineering feats such as the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world, and the accomplishments of private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin again showed the technological power of the human mind. The dream of interplanetary space travel – science fiction a decade ago – now appears destined to happen within our lifetimes. That’s something to be pretty proud of as a species.

— At the Summer Olympics in Brazil, the triumph of the human spirit was on display again and again. Who can forget the tear-jerking sportsmanship seen when New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey d’Agostino stopped to help each other after each suffered injuries, or the remarkable performances of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, whose late-career accomplishments gave inspiration to us all?

And then, of course, there were the little things — most of which went unseen and unnoticed by the media. Too often we get caught up in the negative headlines, the tragedies and accidents that come to define our news, but there’s a lot more to the world than the bad. For every terror attack or natural disaster or plane crash there’s a million little triumphs that happen outside the world of Facebook or Twitter.

Let’s remember 2016 for those events – the report card A’s, the new babies, the marriages, the first kisses, the buried hatchets and the belly laughs – that truly define what it means to be alive. Yes, our world has many challenges we need to address. But 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever. In many ways it was the best, because it was the most recent example of how far we’ve come as a global community and a reminder of how much we have left to accomplish.

Let’s look back on 2016 with fondness. For all its weaknesses, warts and woe, it was still a pretty darn good year.

Here’s hoping 2017 will be even better.

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