The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion 16 good news stories of 2016

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In 2016, we slogged through the nastiest U.S. presidential campaign in history. The conflict in Syria rages on, and the Islamic State has yet to be eradicated from the Middle East. We lost Prince, Bowie and, recently, John Glenn. What good could have possibly come out of a year like this? Turns out, at least 16 things in 2016 weren’t wholly terrible (and, hey, the year’s not over!). What else should be included? Tell us in the comments.

1. There was good news in the U.S. economy. Markets hit record highs, wages rose and unemployment dropped to its lowest rate in nine years.

2. On the press freedom front, journalists Jason Rezaian, Khadija Ismayilova and Can Dundar were released from prisons in, respectively, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey (though they shouldn’t have been there in the first place).

Khadija Ismayilova’s victory for human rights

3. The United States saw milestones for diversity in government. A sampling: Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina elected to the Senate; Ilhan Omar, a former refugee, will be the first Somali American lawmaker; and although she went on to lose the general election to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was the first female U.S. presidential nominee of a major party.

4. In sports, Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky dominated in the Rio Olympics; the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908; and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers gave Cleveland its first pro sports title in 52 years.

5. It was announced that Harriet Tubman will appear on the front of the $20 bill, relegating Andrew Jackson to the back.

6. Colombia’s congress approved a peace deal with the FARC, the rebel group the government has been fighting since 1964.

7. The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the Mall.

8. President Obama visited Hiroshima, the Japanese city where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, and called for the end of nuclear weapons. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join Obama this month at Pearl Harbor to “pay tribute” to those who died in the war.

9. Former dictator Hissene Habre of Chad was convicted of crimes against humanity; former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

10. Good news for Earth: U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped to their lowest level since 1991, renewables’ energy capacity overtook coal’s and the Paris climate agreement went into effect.

11. Good news beyond Earth: Astronomers found new evidence of a ninth planet, and the Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit.

12. Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.

Barack Obama: Why we must rethink solitary confinement

13. The Pentagon lifted its ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

14. The National Park Service celebrated its centennial this year; Obama expanded a national marine monument in Hawaii to create the largest ecologically protected area in the world and designated seven other national monuments, including the Stonewall Inn in New York, the first national monument to the gay rights movement. Obama has now surpassed every other president in the amount of land and water he has protected (more than 548 million acres total — more than twice as much as Theodore Roosevelt).

15. Leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches met with each other for the first time since 1054.

16. Giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and the tiger population rose for the first time in a century.