As we wind down 2016 and look back on what seems like a dumpster fire of a year, I want to stop and look around for a few moments. We are all too familiar with all of the contentious, sad and maddening events of the past year. You know what I am talking about. I will not soil my post with mentioning even a one of them. Instead, I want to take a look at what went right in the world this past year. Believe it or not, it was some pretty great stuff.
I am going to fire off a long list of people and their accomplishments and achievements. I am going to start with the most obvious place for celebration, sports. I also want to cover many other fields that have achieved milestones that may have flown under your radar. I am sure I am going to miss many, many topics and people along the way, but here is my list to make you feel better about 2016.
Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian in his final games. But, he handed the swimming torch over to Katie Ledecky who has a bright future.
Brazil and Germany took home the Football (Soccer) golds. Impressive wins for traditional powers.
The US Women’s Gymnastics Team was spectacular. Simone, Gabby, Aly, and the team, Brava!
Kimia Alizadeh whose sport is Taekwondo, became the first Iranian woman to bring home an Olympic medal. Take the advances where you can find them.
Golf returned to the Olympics. Justin Rose and Inbee Park brought an end to a century old drought for the game.
South African sprinter, Wayde van Niekerk shattered Michael Johnson’s world record for the 400 meters.
Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, did what has never been done before. He won the 100 meters for a third time. He was so impressive in doing so, I would not be surprised to see him in his trademark bow pulling stance four years from now.
The Pittsburgh Penguins raised the Stanley Cup again adding another title for the City of Champions.
Peyton Manning and a suffocating Broncos Defense brought a Super Bowl win back to Denver.
Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers brought a championship back to the city for the first time in 52 years. There is still hope Indians fans.
Leicester City FC broke through to take the Premier League championship in what could be the greatest upset in league History.
Real Madrid came away with an impressive and record setting eleventh UEFA Cup.
Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist, and the Chicago Cubs broke the curse of the billy-goat and about a dozen other self-inflicted curses with a World Series victory. They have a great foundation and have the opportunity to keep this going for a while.
Serena Williams added another Wimbledon title to her record setting collection of major wins.
In men’s golf, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, and Jimmy Walker all became first time major champions. Everyone had unique stories and are forces to be reckoned with in the future.
Not to be outdone on the women’s side, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Brittany Lang, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Chun In-gee showed that they can do it too with four first time major winners. The women’s field is opening up and getting much deeper than it has ever been.
Jimmie Johnson joined an exclusive club as one of only three men with seven NASCAR championships.
Nico Rosberg brought home his first Formula 1 championship for Mercedes and Germany.
Johns Hopkins University is leading the way with brain controlled prosthetics. New technology has been developed that will allow fine motor skills. They are also getting close to replicating the sense of touch through artificial limbs.
Nano Retina has developed a sophisticated chip that can restore eyesight to people who have been declared legally blind. The can bring an individual with sight of 20/200 bac to near 20/20.
Hongjie Dai and his team at Stanford University have developed long lasting batteries meant for use in internal devices such as pacemakers that will allow patients to live without replacements for up to several years more than current devices.
Researchers at MIT and Harvard University are closing in on what they believe is a potential cure for diabetes.
Computer Scientists at Brown University are developing technology that will allow robots to learn from one another. This will remove the burden of programming each one individually. Robots can be taught their own tasks and will in turn cross-train their peers.
Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger took a random discovery of two South African spelunkers and proved their find was evidence of a new species of human beings. This could fill in many gaps in human evolution.
Astronomers at Cal Tech presented evidence of a ninth planet in our solar system orbiting our sun every 15,000 years.
Researchers at Rutgers and Stanford Universities developed a means to inject healthy nerve tissue into the brain to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Successes in mouse trials could lead to human trials within the next ten years.
NASA has completed the James Webb Space Telescope. Launching in 2018 it will replace the Hubble Space Telescope and provide greater detail and a look even deeper into space.
Through conservation efforts the Giant Panda, West Indian Manatee, Arabian Oryx, Louisiana Black Bear, Amur Tiger and several other animals have been removed from the endangered species list. There is still a long way to go, but these are positive steps.
Kirk Douglas turned 100 this week. If a plane crash, a massive stroke and acting with Arnold can’t stop him, nothing will. Happy Birthday!
The National Park Service turned 100 this year. If you realize it or not, you have probably enjoyed time at a site run by the NPS. Here’s to 100 more (at least).
The first Charlie Chaplin films were released in 1916. Yes, they are silent. Yes, they are black and white. Yes, they are still classics.
The first modern grocery store, Piggly Wiggly opened 100 years ago, in Memphis. Thank them every time you walk into your local mega-mart.
The San Diego Zoo turns 100 this year. One of the world’s premier zoological parks.
Making it halfway to the century mark in 2016 are Batman the original television series, The Beatles first American concert, and Star Trek. Also, celebrating 50 years are Adam Sandler, Halle Berry, Kiefer Sutherland and Janet Jackson.
You see, 2016 was not completely bad. In fact, some really great stuff happened this year. I know I have only scratched the surface and there is much more to add, but you get my point. You can even extract light from some of the darkness. I know we lost many wonderful people this year. But after the initial sadness wears off, celebrate the lives of: Arnold Palmer, Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker, Harper Lee, Maurice White, John Glenn and the list goes on. In the words of Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
In the case of 2016, I am not going to cry. I am going to smile because of what we have done. For those who know me, they will see this as a positive message from a usually cynical person. It happens occasionally. But maybe it is because the year is ending, I am choosing to look at what we have done to move society forward. I challenge everyone to go find one new thing you did not know about that went well this year. Hold on to it and carry it into the new year.