An optimist’s take on some of the most epic, uplifting and promising moments of the past year. Bring it, 2017.
2016 has been a proverbial dumpster fire – no doubt about it – but even among the heaping piles of scorched garbage that surrounded us, there were a few signs of hope.
Here’s an optimistic look-back at the year that was. Chin up, guys!
1. It was a phenomenal year for music
2016 brought us Kanye’s floating stage, an epic Guns ‘N Roses reunion, A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in 20 years, “Old People Coachella,” and that Chainsmokers song that we can’t stop humming. Bruce Springsteen went on tour, wrote a critically-acclaimed memoir, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (#nbd). Oh, and lest we forget that one of the biggest memes of the year, the Mannequin Challenge, was powered by the Rae Sremmurd single, “Black Beatles.”
2. Crime and bullying is down in U.S. schools
The total victimization rate fell from 181 instances per 1,000 students in 2012 to just 33 instances per 1,000 students in 2014, per newly released data from the federal government. This data reflects sexual and physical assault, robbery, and theft. Reports of bullying also fell from 28.1 percent to 21.5 percent.
3. An Internet meme actually made a difference in the real world
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” dominated the Internet in 2014, and this year we saw that all of those gallons of freezing cold water were not poured on our friends and loved ones in vain. The ALS Association announced in 2016 that a breakthrough research finding was made thanks to donations garnered from heightened awareness spurred by the viral hit.
4. Kid Cudi shattered stereotypes by opening up about his depression
In a brave move, Scott Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi) took to Facebook in October to share a refreshingly candid post on his struggles with mental health. The post garnered more than half a million Likes and an outpour of support and praise for doing his part to reduce the stigma around mental health. Kid Cudi went on to release a new album two months later.
5. In India, volunteers planted 50 million trees in one day
Volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in a single day. LEGIT. In other positive environmental news, the Paris Agreement was made official in November, and Iceland announced that they would be using energy from a live volcano to power homes in the U.K. by 2020.
6. Bears had a moment
Maybe it was just my own personal bear-dar, but everyone’s favorite furry and ferocious animals seemed to be everywhere this year. Desiigner’s “Panda” topped the charts as Pandas made their way off the endangered animal list. Then there was the thirsty black bear that drank 36 cans of beer in Washington. Speaking of bears, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar for his performance in “Revenant.”
7. We made it to Jupiter!
A journey that was five years in the making, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July and sent back some pretty incredible images. SpaceX continued do its thing with a slew of missions and experiments in 2016, following the successful return of the Falcon 9 rocket last December. Elon Musk’s reaction to the vessel’s return to Earth was priceless.
8. #SPORTS (!!!)
Holy moly. ESPN’s Mike & Mike have argued that 2016 was potentially the greatest year in sports history. They are not wrong. The year started with a tearjerking Peyton Manning pre-retirement party in the form of a Super Bowl win. Later, Lebron made good on his vow to bring a title home to Cleveland, Michael Phelps went out on top at the Olympic Games in Rio, and the perpetually-maligned Cubbies won the World Series in dramatic fashion.
9. Patagonia showed us that not all brands are evil
Patagonia donated all of its Black Friday sales to charity this year, amounting to $10 million dollars in total donations. While the PR stunt certainly captured headlines (theoretically supporting future profits), it also emphasized the need for brands to make cause-related efforts core to their missions. According to one brand marketer-turned-author, “good is the new cool.”
10. Hundreds of strangers attended the funeral of a homeless WWII vet
In a sign of respect and solidarity, more than 200 people showed up to pay respects to a 91-year-old homeless veteran named Serina Vine, who had no living family at her time of death. Feeling charitable? You can donate to the Wounded Warrior Project here.