BY LEONARD BOPP
In the midst of storms of darkness, we must look for rays of hope. From foreign policy crises to the Ebola epidemic, racial unrest to political gridlock, 2014 was a difficult, often turbulent year in world news. But amidst difficult times, we must celebrate the moments that remind us of the world we hope to see. Take a look at the ten most beautiful moments of 2014.
The Ukrainian Revolution
Brought about by the attempts of the Ukrainian government to strengthen ties with the European Union and Russia, thousands took to the streets of Kiev to protest a government that had, for many years, been disconnected to the people. The revolution concluded with the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, which, although it led to further political unrest, was a clear victory for the people. Though the riots were turbulent and brought about violent clashes between military forces and civilians, it is always beautiful to see citizens actively engaging in democracy in such a powerful way.
Sochi Winter Olympics
The 2014 Olympics came amidst tremendous controversy – the Ukranian Revolution, terrorist plots in Russia, and the suppression of the LGBT community by the Kremlin – and yet, the Olympic Games once again proved to be a symbol of unity throughout the world. (And remember that time Obama sent three LGBT ambassadors to the Olympics to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws? Obama, this is why we love you.)
Sergeant Bergdahl released from Afghan prison
After being held in captivity by the Taliban for five years, this Sun Valley, Idaho native came back to the beautiful country he served in exchange for five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Somehow, bringing home an American prisoner of war was rather controversial due to concerns over Bergdahl’s allegiance to the country he went to war for – even though, in the end, bringing home American prisoners of war should always, no matter what, be the nation’s priority.
Celebration of the life of Robin Williams
How sad it was when the world lost one of its most beloved actors. How beautiful it was when hundreds of people, including Billy Crystal, Bonnie Hunt, Whoopi Goldberg, and his three children, celebrated his life at a ceremony in San Francisco.
One World Trade Center Opens
It took years to remove the debris and restrore the subway tunnels that had been destroyed. Ten years later, we had a memorial: two open squares where the towers once stood, with ongoing waterfalls as a lasting tribute to those who were lost. And now, thirteen years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, we have rebuilt – a new tower claims the Manhattan sky, taller and bolder than any before.
Supreme Court Legalizes same-sex marriage in South Carolina
November 20 This truly stands for a year of huge gains in the LGBT rights movement – at the end of this year, same-sex marriage is legal in thirty-five states. That, indeed, is progress.
Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
For his work to end the exploitation of children for financial gain and her heroic struggle to promote the right of girls to education, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, marking a huge victory for the rights of children around the world.
Millions March in New York City
Between the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the killing of Eric Garner in New York City, and the failure, in both cases, of grand juries to indict the police officers who killed them, this year was marked by the revival – or perhaps the uncovering – of continued racial tensions in America. Clashes between the African American community and police forces, the apparent discrimination in the criminal justice system – the events of this year show that we truly are not living in a post-racial society. But in response, a powerful movement to end this injustice emerged, demonstrated perhaps most profoundly when sixty thousand people marched through the streets in New York City. Clad in shirts marked “Black Lives Matter” and holding signs saying “We Can’t Breathe,” the protesters issued a call for action – for Michael Brown, for Eric Garner, for justice, for equality.
Cuba releases American prisoner Alan Gross
Finally, after fifty one years, the US ended an outdated, Cold War era policy towards Cuba; and symbolizing these historic steps towards normalized relations, Alan Gross, an American international development professional held in Cuba, was releases and returned to American soil.
War in Afghanistan Ends
Lastly, the year concluded with the accomplishment of a long-held goal: the end of the war in Afghanistan. At a ceremony in Kabul, US and NATO officials took down the wartime flag, formally marking the end of all combat operations in Afghanistan. At long last, we are no longer – formally, at least – a nation at war.
When we talk about the struggle for progress, the fight for a more fair, just society, it is easy to be discouraged by clouds of negativity. But these moments, these powerful moments, remind us why we take up the fight, for they demonstrate the real possibilities of a better world.