It has occurred to us that, in establishing this as an annual tradition, we may be setting ourselves up for failure. We can’t promise that we’ll deliver 48 good things in 2048, or 58 in 2058, though we’re hopeful our children and grandchildren will be doing a better job running the world than we’re managing now.
And, of course, news that cheers some may distress others. But we’re an editorial page — we’re allowed to have opinions. In our opinion, and in no particular order, here are 18 good things that happened in 2018:
1. All 12 Thai boys who were marooned deep in a cave were saved in an operation that needed 100 rescuers inside the cave, 1,000 Thai soldiers in support, and thousands of volunteers furnishing meals, transportation and other help. One retired Thai SEAL died in the effort, but many had feared all the boys would be lost.
2. India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual gay sex. In the United States, the LGBT community increasingly has stepped out of the closet and vindicated its right to live free of bigotry. But many gays and lesbians elsewhere still live in fear. This decision in the world’s second-most-populous country, after years of activist struggle, offered a major step away from such fear.
3. In the United States, the economy continued to grow, wages increased, and unemployment fell to its lowest level (3.7 percent ) since 1969. Unemployment among black Americans hit the lowest it has been since the government started tracking it in 1972, and the gap with unemployment among whites was the smallest it has ever been.
4. Voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections was the highest in a century — 49.3 percent of the voting-eligible population, compared with 36.7 percent in 2014.
5. Those voters sent an unusually diverse group to Congress. More than 100 women were elected to the House, easily breaking a record, and they included two Native Americans, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and immigrants and children of immigrants.
6. Oh, and a majority of the House winners were Democrats. Obviously not all of our readers welcomed that, and we’re sure we won’t approve of everything the House majority does in the next two years. But, as we mentioned, we’re entitled to our view; and our view, as we said right after the election, is that we should celebrate the restoration of checks and balances in Washington — and the rejection of President Trump’s campaign appeal to “fear of immigrants [and] his depiction of his opposition as dangerous enemies.”
7. For only the eighth time, a spacecraft landed safely on Mars. The InSight lander touched down on Nov. 26 and sent the first photograph back shortly thereafter. It will collect and transmit all kinds of data for the next two years.
8. Floridians voted overwhelmingly (64 percent) to restore voting rights to felons once they have completed their sentences. The single biggest enfranchisement since voting legislation a half-century ago, this will allow nearly 1.5 million people to exercise their basic civic right, fixing an injustice that disproportionately affected African Americans.
9. It took another bipartisan vote, this one in Congress, to approve a criminal- justice-reform bill that, as we wrote when it passed a couple of weeks ago, acknowledges that “in some cases rehabilitation and training are preferable to long-term human warehousing.”
10. Voters in Utah, Missouri, Colorado and Michigan approved redistricting reforms. That means less gerrymandering and fairer elections.
11. Authoritarian governments were on the march, and the United States retreated from the promotion of human rights, but Ethiopia, a country of 100 million people, took dramatic steps away from dictatorship and toward democracy. A people’s movement in Armenia swept a strongman out of office and paved the way for honest elections. The essential human desire for freedom and dignity never abates.
12. Less momentously: The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Granted, this wasn’t good news for fans of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, but even many non-Caps fans rejoiced to see one of the all-time greats, the ever-engaging Alex Ovechkin, finally bring home the trophy.
13. In more good news for the capital area, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed to provide long-term funding for Metro, and service on the mass transit system began to improve under the leadership of General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld.
14. The Virginia legislature voted to expand Medicaid, as did voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska. Based on election results, Maine, Wisconsin and Kansas may follow. Health-care coverage remains vulnerable thanks to Republican challenges in court, but these results mean hundreds of thousands of Americans will be newly protected.
15. The impunity of powerful men to harass and assault women continued to be challenged by the #MeToo movement. CBS chief Les Moonves lost his job and, we hope, his severance payment. Bill Cosby was sentenced to prison. So was the repugnant sports physician Larry Nassar, after preying on hundreds of girls, in what should presage a cleanup of the corrupt and obtuse U.S. Olympic leadership.
16. Also in the category of better-late-than-never: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report that, after an 18-month investigation, revealed more than 300 Catholic priests who had abused children over seven decades. The revelations prompted resignations, sparked other states to undertake their own inquiries and raised hopes that the Catholic Church might finally face its history and reform.
17. While the impending departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was unfortunate, his dignified and eloquent letter of resignation personified public service at its best. He expressed his differences with President Trump without resorting to childish insults, and he laid out principles worth fighting for: standing with allied democracies and standing up to authoritarian rivals.
18. The U.S. judiciary defended the rule of law. When the executive branch attempted to rewrite statutes — to separate children and parents at the border, to expel a reporter from the White House, to defund sanctuary cities, to block asylum requests — judges, whether appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents, said no.
Undoubtedly, they will be called upon again in 2019; and, undoubtedly, the year will bring many other challenges besides. Nonetheless — we wish all of you a happy new year in which the good news outweighs the bad. And we pledge to find 19 things to cheer for a year from now.