This appeared in Friday’s Washington Post.
Many of us found 2017 to be a stressful year, but the news wasn’t all bad. In the spirit of the season, we decided to salute 17 good things that happened in 2017.
Of course, not everything that struck us as good news will be seen the same way by all of our readers. But even if you disagree with some items on our list, we hope you found at least 17 things to cheer this year, in the world and at your hearth, and we wish you at least 18 pieces of good news for 2018.
1. Both the world and U.S. economies continued to grow, continuing one of the most sustained economic expansions ever in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. The global economy grew by about 3 percent, its highest rate since 2011,according to the United Nations. The U.S. growth rate looks to be a higher-than-predicted 2.3 percent.
2. With the help of thousands of U.S. troops, the “caliphate” of the Islamic State was defeated and destroyed. This of course did not end the threat from Islamist terrorism generally nor the Islamic State specifically. But taking away its territorial base removed a potent recruiting tool and put a stop to some of the most horrific human rights abuses taking place anywhere.
3. Women who had been harassed and assaulted in the workplace stood up and spoke up—and, in many cases, were listened to and believed. Was this the harbinger of genuine change? Maybe. At least a serious conversation about new laws and other reforms has begun.
4. Speaking of which . . . Roy Moore, Republican candidate in the hyper-Republican state of Alabama, lost a special election for the U.S. Senate. He deserved to lose for many reasons, but none more compelling than the allegations against him of preying on teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Women bravely spoke up—and they, too, were heard.
5. Britain’s Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle. She is divorced, biracial and American—any one of which would have been enough to rule her out for the British royal family not long ago. So this is both a love story and a sign of growing tolerance in a tradition-bound institution.
6. This month, Australia became the 25th country to achieve marriage equality, with both houses of the legislature voting overwhelmingly in its favor following a voluntary mail survey that showed clear public support. Same-sex couples also will be able to marry in Austria by January 2019, according to a court ruling there.
7. Ratko Mladic, “the Butcher of Bosnia,” was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. It took a long time—the Serb army leader committed his crimes during the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995, and his trial in The Hague began in 2012. But his sentencing marked an important moment of accountability for the worst slaughter of civilians in Europe since World War II.
8. In the United States, too, the courts played a heartening role, showing their independence and willingness to stand up to the Trump administration when it issued questionable orders: the travel ban, the ill-considered prohibition on transgender people serving in the military, the attempt to defund so-called sanctuary cities.
9. Mattel unveiled a sporty, hijab-wearing Barbie, modeled on Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad, the first Muslim American woman to win an Olympic medal, said that there was no Barbie that looked like her when she was growing up and that she hopes the doll will inspire other girls “to embrace what makes them unique.”
10. Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria caused terrible devastation across the Caribbean, in Florida and in Texas—but also inspired amazing acts of heroism, generosity and neighborliness. One case: Spanish-born celebrity chef José Andrés helped organize a network of kitchens and suppliers that served more than 3 million meals to Puerto Ricans who in many cases felt otherwise alone and abandoned.
11. French independent centrist Emmanuel Macron resoundingly defeated the far-right, anti- immigrant Marine Le Pen for president in May. Following the triumphs of Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016, a win for Le Pen’s National Front, with its anti-Semitic, Nazi-tinged history, would have given momentum to the forces of bigotry across the West. Macron’s win, following a similar defeat of the far right in the Netherlands, had the contrary effect.
12. The teen pregnancy rate continued to fall, as reported in June of this year. It dropped 9 percent in 2016 from the previous year and has fallen 67 percent since 1991. One physician told CNN that this is a “phenomenal” result “because we know that the vast majority of teen births are unintended”—and the health and educational outcomes on average are far better for children of older, intentional mothers.
13. Democracy was under pressure in the world, but it continued to hold its own in many places—and reasserted itself in some infertile ground. In January, for example, Yahya Jammeh left Gambia, which he had misruled for 22 years. He was forced out after losing an election in December 2016 whose results he at first tried to ignore.
14. Women in Saudi Arabia were granted permission to drive starting in June. Yes, small progress in the 21st century—but progress. Also coming soon to Riyadh: movie theaters!
15. The Affordable Care Act, a flawed but hugely important effort to ensure that all Americans have access to health care, survived innumerable assassination attempts by the Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress, and millions of Americans returned to Obamacare exchanges to buy insurance for the coming year. The ACA remains in danger as 2018 begins—but it also enjoys growing support from Americans.
16. Progress was made on the long-sought and elusive goal of gene therapy: The Food and Drug Administration approved a pioneering treatment in December in which a healthy gene is injected to replace defective copies of the gene in patients with a type of hereditary blindness. Earlier in the year, a different kind of genetic therapy was approved for a groundbreaking treatment of childhood leukemia.
17. Under the steady leadership of Paul Wiedefeld, Metrorail service in the capital area actually improved a tick or two. Whether that progress is sustained now hangs on whether regional and federal leaders can come together to supply the sustained funding Wiedefeld says is needed for public transit. We hope we can put that first on our list in 2018.