It seems that we can all agree that 2016 was not the year we had hoped it would be. Many have been ready to chalk it up as one of the worst years in history, due to the extensive list of negative things that have come from this year. From the deadly shooting in Orlando, to the countless murders carried out by police officers, to the election of Donald Trump, to the killing of the beloved gorilla; 2016 has not been a good year for many. While it is much easier to focus on the negatives that occurred this past year, 2016 did bring some positives with it. Here are 16 good things that happened in 2016 (some may be subjective):
Indigenous People’s Day Replacing Columbus Day:
While this isn’t the first year a few states and major cities have recognized this holiday, it was this year that it began to gain momentum throughout the country. In states such as Vermont, Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota, people in major cities are hoping to not only recognize the true history behind Columbus, but also to celebrate the incredible bravery and resilience shown by the native inhabitants of the Western World. While it remains Columbus Day on a federal level, many more cities and states are moving towards replacing the holiday to honor the real heroes of the late 1400’s.
This new app took us all by storm this year, encouraging kids and adults to get outside and be more active. While it’s not a perfect substitute for exercising, it has helped many people get off the couch and go outside. It has kids out walking and being more active, which is a big accomplishment when we take the increasing obesity rates and the drop in physical activities into account. It’s also a game that can connect an older generation to the younger one, as many young kids are discovering Pokémon for the first time, and older kids and young adults are reentering the world they loved from their childhood.
After spending decades on the endangered species list, the great panda is now no longer considered endangered. While they are not completely safe yet (they are considered “vulnerable”), this is till a huge advancement for the loveable species. For the past 50 years, giant pandas have been the face of wildlife conservation, and now it seems to have been successful. The next step? Working to save the giant apes, who are one wrong move away from being extinct.
The Increasing Tiger Populations:
Another animal has made a comeback this year. The wild tiger population increased for the first time in a century during this year. After being one of the most endangered species, the increase in the number of tigers is definitely a positive trend that hopefully continues in the coming years.
All the Great Movies:
2016 had some spectacular movies come out, without a doubt. From superhero to Disney, this has been a great year for cinema. We had Zootopia, Batman vs. Superman, Moana, Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts, Deadpool, and, of course, the long-awaited Finding Dory. Fantastic movies from just about every genre filled the theaters week after week.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar:
Speaking of movies, the actor we have all been waiting for finally won his Oscar. After an astounding performance in The Revenant, Leo finally won the award he undeniably deserves. The best part? True to form, DiCaprio remained humble during his speech, and saw it as an opportunity to spread awareness for climate change and global warming, making him even more lovable.
Discovery of the ALS Gene:
After the Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm back in 2014, $115 million dollars was donated to the ALS Association. That money played a huge role in the discovery of the NEK1 gene. This gene now ranks as one of the most common contributions to the disease, and its discovery brings us one huge step closer to unveiling a cure.
When it was found that the Dakota Access Pipeline Project threatened the water supply and other sacred grounds of the Native American tribes who lived in the area worked tirelessly to peacefully protest. People throughout the nation stood with them, figuratively and literally. After enduring tear gas, water canons, and other police brutalities, the federal government halted the project. While the future of Standing Rock remains unknown, this is still a huge accomplishment for the people who stood their ground to fight for what they believe in.
The 2016 Olympics in Rio undoubtedly had some highlights. One of them being the first Olympics held in South America. Another major change was the return of rugby as an Olympic sport, which is one of the most popular, worldwide sports. The return of rugby also led to Fiji winning their first ever gold medal, when the men’s team won the tournament. The American gymnastics team also took home the gold medal in Women’s Gymnastics, with the help of Simone Biles, who has been named one of the best Olympic gymnasts of all time. We also witnessed swimmer, Michael Phelps last competition, as he defended his title as the most decorated Olympian.
Sport’s Illustrated First Plus Size Model:
This year we were introduced to Ashley Graham, the first plus size model to be on the cover of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Six years ago, the size 16 model shot a commercial for Lane Bryant’s lingerie line. However, ABC pulled the ad, saying it was too “big and beautiful for TV.” While she is the same size as an average American woman, she is still deemed a plus-size model. The next step for Ashley? Getting people to stop calling her a “plus size model” and just calling her a model. Despite the backlash the magazine received, such as calling Graham “disgusting,” this remains a huge advancement for women. If the media keeps portraying these normal sized women, it could have an enormous impact on women feeling comfortable in their own bodies, no matter their size.
The First CoverBoy:
Another huge advancement in models is James Charles, CoverGirl’s first CoverBoy. He will be featured in CoverGirl’s ad for So Lashy!, their newest mascara line. Charles is also seen in several different makeup looks, one of them Katy Perry. This is a huge message for all people, especially boys who wish to wear makeup. This shows that anyone should be allowed to feel beautiful in their own skin, no matter their gender. CoverGirl’s advancement in their makeup ads didn’t stop here. Nura Afia is CoverGirl’s first model to wear a hijab. The makeup company is setting the stage for diversity in their ads, which is hopefully something other companies will follow.
Jon Snow Coming Back to Life:
This was great news for Game of Thrones fans, as one of the most beloved characters was brought back to life after being stabbed by his own men. The end of season five showed the character slowly bleeding out in the snow, leaving fans shocked and outraged. Widely believed as a “safe character,” the death of Jon Snow was a huge curveball in the popular series. However, thanks to the Red Woman, Jon Snow was brought back from the dead, and was able to take revenge on his enemies.
The Bill of Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors:
In early October, President Obama signed the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Rights Act into law, which guarantees specific rights for sexual assault victims. The act mainly focuses on rape kits, the forensic evidence collected in hospitals. It protects their access to the examination, and ensures that the evidence is preserved and tested. Victims can also no longer be charged for or prevented from getting a rape kit, even if they haven’t filed a police report. Upon completion of the rape kit, it must be preserved until the statute of limitations runs out. Survivors may also request that they be notified before the kit is destroyed, and that the evidence be preserved. They also now have the right to be notified of important results, such as a DNA profile. This law not only gives sexual assault survivors much-needed rights, it also helps to empower them.
Ellen DeGeneres is Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
President Obama teared up as he listed the reasons Ellen was being presented with the award. He stated that, “Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, and more loving place, so as long as we just keep swimming.” Ellen, who has dedicated her life to spreading kindness and encouraging bravery, her work for the LBGT community, as well as the country as a whole, has inspired many to be more accepting of all people. Obama continued by saying, “Ellen counters what too often divides us, with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.” Ellen continues to spread positivity and humor on her show, something all of us should strive to do.
The First Muslim Woman Congressman:
This election season, a disappointment for many, reflected some progress in the American people when Ilhan Omar was voted by Minnesota into the House of Representatives. Omar is the first Somali-American Muslim Woman to be elected as a U.S. Legislator, defeating Minnesota’s 44-year incumbent. The inequality in the U.S. inspired her to become involved in politics, and she now represents the district that covers most of Minneapolis. She stated that, “Our democracy is great, but it’s fragile.” This is huge accomplishment, especially for the increasing Somali population in Minnesota. Omar’s election will hopefully give the Somali people the voice they deserve.
Hillary Clinton Advances the Feminist Movement:
Despite her shocking loss in the election to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton opened the door for women, showing that is possible for women to be successful in politics. She has been a senator, a First Lady, a Secretary of State, and was very close to being the first woman president. Despite the turnout of the electoral college, the popular vote favored Hillary, showing that women really can do anything men do. Upon voting for Hillary, many women lined up at Susan B. Anthony’s grave, to place the “I Voted” sticker on her stone. While this is likely the end of Hillary’s presidential runs, she has opened the door for women everywhere, and has started shattering the glass ceiling in politics. She has shown that women can be powerful, which can sometimes scare people. While we remain one of the only first world countries that has not had a woman leader, hopefully, the first woman president is not too far in the future.
As we can see from the list above, even the darkest times are filled with light. While 2016 was not the year we all hoped it would be, we can use it as a foundation to make 2017 better. Our world is what we make it out to be, so let’s use 2017 and what we learned in 2016 to try to make the world a little better, one step at a time.