America certainly didn’t get off to a good start in 2023. We bring up a laundry list of last year’s issues: inflation, climate change, dysfunctional immigration policies, inadequate education systems, war abroad, rudeness, hatred and xenophobia.
In the first week of this new year, the US House failed to agree on a speaker on the first ballot for the first time in 100 years. In fact, it took 15 votes to select Kevin McCarthy, the most since 1859, just before the start of the Civil War.
It’s no wonder that two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track or that they dislike both political parties and most of our politicians.
Americans desperately need things to feel good about, and luckily there are plenty if you’re willing to look deep enough. As depressing as things often seemed last year, there were many developments that boded well for the future of our society, our country and the world. Be here 10 of my favorite positive developments from 2022.
1. Nuclear fusion is no longer just a science fiction fantasy:
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory created the first nuclear fusion reaction in a lab environment that actually produced more energy than was needed to start the reaction. This could be a potential first step on a long journey to the holy grail of energy: abundant carbon-free energy that produces no nuclear waste.
2. Major retailers held their ground with price increases:
At the end of 2022, inflation started to ease, thanks in part to the effects of falling energy prices and Fed policy. But US wallets also received big support from retailers like Walmart
3. Election deniers were rejected at the polls:
Candidates who embraced former President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2022 election were defeated in the most competitive midterm elections, including key gubernatorial races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The rational supermajority of voters who want leaders to work together for the good of the country fended off extremists in both parties whose goal appears to be to destroy the entire system.
4. Young Americans made their voices heard:
It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2022 midterm elections, the second-highest youth turnout in three decades. These are the voters who are the future of our precious democracy.
5. Congress has done more than you think:
The recently concluded Congress passed major legislation, including the bipartisan passage of the largest public works bill since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s; the first federal gun safety law since the 1990s; a major innovation bill to ensure America surpasses China in semiconductors and other key technologies of the future; and a rewrite of the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887, which should serve to prevent a repeat of the January 6, 2021 riots in Washington, D.C.
6. COVID vaccines could lead to significant breakthroughs in cancer treatment:
Last year, researchers deployed the mRNA technology used for the Pfizer
7. India, the world’s largest democracy, celebrated 75 years of independence:
India, a raw democracy, is about to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation. That means the world’s largest country will soon also be one that freely chooses its leaders. In contrast, China seems to oppress its people, especially its minorities, allowing the ruling government to maintain its control.
8. The Western World is waking up to threats to democracy:
For years, the US and Democratic allies in Europe and elsewhere seemed to be drifting apart. That has all been changed by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and China’s clash of arms over Taiwan, which have reminded the US, Europe, and countries like Japan and Australia that the world’s democracies will rise or fall together in the coming years.
9. An entire human genome can be sequenced for $100:
Two decades ago, it cost about $1 billion to sequence the first human genome.
10. We have taken a look at the universe 13 billion years back in time:
It was all thanks to a snapshot from NASA’s James Webb telescope, which captured the oldest-ever photograph of the early universe.
Bonus: This additional item has the potential for both good and evil for us: We keep creating more and more artificial intelligence. If used correctly, AI will change our lives for the better by enabling us to do things faster, more effectively and at a lower cost. If left unchecked and/or managed, it could destroy us all.
These developments should remind us that humans have a remarkable capacity to innovate and create, and that democracies have the capacity to correct themselves when they take a dangerous path. This should encourage us to bear in mind that many of the challenges we still face – as a country and planet – are within our power to solve.
Some challenges, such as the need for Americans to be more civilized, constructive, and decent to each other, are common courtesies — and must be resolved interpersonally through respect for each other.
Some — like fixing our increasingly broken immigration system — need to be fixed in Washington. Still others, such as climate change and the ongoing battle between freedom and oppression, will unfold on the world stage.
I hope my fellow Americans will never lose sight of our ability to tackle the most pressing problems when we do it together.
We have the means to determine our own destiny. Let’s do that for the sake of everyone.