Good Things Happened in 2017
I'm a critic of President Donald Trump, so most of the 150 columns I've written this year have been negative. Now, in the holiday spirit, it's time to celebrate the good stuff that happened in 2017.
- A groundbreaking ceremony for the Jackie Robinson Museum took place in April, 70 years after the Brooklyn Dodger great broke Major League Baseball's color barrier and ended almost 80 years of segregation. Located in lower Manhattan, this tribute to the civil rights pioneer is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. Professional baseball has done a good job celebrating Robinson, retiring his number 42 and honoring him every April 15, the date of his debut.
- In a Capitol where Democrats and Republicans barely speak to each other, two Texas congressmen reminded us that bipartisan civility was once the norm. After a cancelled flight, Representative Will Hurd, a Republican, and Representative Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat, drove together on the 1,600 mile trip back to Washington. It brought to mind Gerald Ford's wisecrack that congressional comity started to erode with the arrival of the jet airplane, which let members head home more often and left them less time to spend with each other.
- Natural disasters produced heroes from Texas to Florida to Puerto Rico. On July 8, for example, Jessica and Derek Simmons were walking on the beach in Panama City, Florida, when they noticed nine people, including a couple of children, caught in a rip tide and in danger of drowning. They swiftly gathered 80 others on the beach, forming a human chain that reached to the trapped swimmers and made it possible to pull them to safety. Jose Andres, a chef, swung into action after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 and Washington dawdled. He set up a food-delivery service that provided millions of hot meals and sandwiches to a traumatized citizenry, more than the Red Cross or the government. In East Texas, Southwest Airlines flew scores of lost puppies and cats to new homes after Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston in August. Pro football star J.J. Watt worked around the clock to raise more than $30 million in relief funds. Then the city got a shot in the arm two months later when the Houston Astros won their first World Series, riding the coattails of the shortest major leaguer, Jose Altuve.
- Medical science made strides in developing gene-altering techniques and immunotherapies to treat cancer, even in severely ill adults with leukemia. It's a reminder of extraordinary progress. My dad was a pediatrician, and I can still picture how devastated he was when a young patient was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a death warrant. Today the survival rate for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia is above 85 percent.
- Smoking continues to decline, plummeting more than 20 percent since the turn of the century, according to USA Facts, the reference website launched by former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. The site is a trove of good news, including this data point: The number of hate crimes dropped at about the same pace as smoking. That was before Trump became president, so we'll see what happens next.
- A veteran Virginia state legislator who proclaimed himself the state's "chief homophobe" lost his bid for re-election in November — to a transgender woman. He'd sponsored a bathroom bill restricting access by transgender people to public restrooms.
- "The Post," a movie celebrating press freedom, hit theaters last week. It's a stirring and largely factual account of how the Washington Post, despite threats from the government and investors, decided in 1971 to publish parts of the Pentagon Papers, the secret government chronicle of U.S. deceptions during the Vietnam War. It was the New York Times that broke this seminal story and then was blocked by the government from further publication. The Post got the papers and published despite legal risks. The Supreme Court later ruled that the government's effort to prevent publication was unconstitutional. It's a story with contemporary importance amid Trump's attacks on news organizations and his babble about fake news. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are fabulous.
- With the arrival of Kai Woodruff Hunt a month ago, my wife and I became grandparents.
- Trump's term will end in only 1,123 days.
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Jonathan Landman at firstname.lastname@example.org