America certainly didn’t get off to a great start in 2023. We are bringing forward a whole laundry list of problems from last year: inflation, climate change, dysfunctional immigration policies, inadequate education systems, war abroad, rudeness, hatred, and xenophobia.
In the first week of this new year, the U.S. House couldn’t agree on a speaker on the first ballot for the first time in 100 years. In fact, it took 15 ballots to select Kevin McCarthy, the most since 1859, right before the start of the Civil War.
It’s little wonder 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 are in desperate need of things to feel good about, and fortunately there are plenty of them if you are willing to look deeply enough. As depressing as things often seemed last year, there were many developments that bode well for the future of our society, our country, and the world. Here are 10 of my favorite positive developments percolating 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 laboratory setting that actually produced more energy than it took to start the reaction. This may be a potential first step in a long journey to the holy grail of energy: Abundant carbon free power that produces no nuclear waste.
2. Big Retailers Held the Line on Price Increases:
In late 2022, inflation started to wane thanks in part to the effects of falling energy prices and Fed policy. But American pocketbooks also got a big assist from retailers like Walmart
3. Election Deniers Were Denied at the Ballot Box:
Candidates who embraced former President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2022 election were defeated in the most competitive and consequential midterm elections, including key governor’s races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. The rational supermajority of voters who want leaders to work together for the good of the country repelled extremists in both parties whose goal seems to be destroying the whole system.
4. Young Americans Made Their Voices Heard:
It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of young adults between the ages 18 and 29 voted in the 2022 midterm elections, marking the second-highest youth turnout in three decades. These are the voters who are the future of our precious democracy.
5. Congress Got More Done Than You Think:
The recently concluded Congress passed significant legislation including bipartisan passage of the biggest public works bill since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950’s; the first federal gun safety bill since the 1990s; a major innovation bill to ensure America outpaces China in semiconductors and other key technologies of the future; and a rewrite of the outdated 1887 Electoral Count Act which should serve to prevent a repeat of the January 6, 2021 riots in Washington, DC.
6. COVID Vaccines May 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 raucous democracy, is on the verge of overtaking China as the world’s most populous nation. That means the world’s biggest country will soon be one that also freely elects its leaders. In contrast, China seems to oppress its population, especially its minorities, which allows the ruling government to preserve its control.
8. The Western World Wakes Up to Threats to Democracy:
For years, the U.S. and democratic allies in Europe and elsewhere seemed to be drifting apart. That’s all changed with Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and China’s saber rattling over Taiwan, which have reminded the U.S., Europe and countries like Japan and Australia that the world’s democracies will rise or fall together in the years to come.
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 Got 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 picture of the early universe.
Bonus: This extra item has the potential for both good and evil for us: We continue to create more and more Artificial Intelligence. If properly utilized, AI will change our lives for the better by allowing us to do things faster, more effectively and at a lower cost. Left unchecked and/or un-stewarded, it can destroy us all.
These developments should be a reminder that humans have a remarkable ability to innovate and create, and that democracies have the capacity to self-correct when they are headed down a dangerous path. This should encourage us to keep in mind that many of the challenges we still face – as a country and a planet – are within our power to resolve.
Some challenges, like the need for Americans to be more civil, constructive, and decent to one another are common courtesies – and must be solved interpersonally through respect for one another.
Some – like fixing our increasingly broken immigration system – must be solved in Washington. Still others, like climate change and the ongoing struggle 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 issues if we do it together.
We have the wherewithal to determine our own fate. Let’s do that for the benefit of all.