Swine flu. Sinking economy. Struggling wars overseas. These are just a few of the blights we endured in 2009. Not to mention the fact that we suffered Sarah Palin while she was “going rogue.”
It is easy to recall 2009 and shake our heads in disbelief, to hope that we were sleeping and the past 12 months were merely a prolonged nightmare. But it is important to remember that the whole value of 2009 is greater than the sum of its often-troubling parts.
Though 2009 was not a year of obvious triumphs, it hosted a series of crucial social steps and positive political decisions that will ensure progress for the future, spurring a massive overhaul in our nation’s culture.
We should look at 2009 as a reason to be hopeful because this year was a turning point. Americans used this past year to boldly declare that we will no longer tolerate a lack of transparency in our government and that we demand to see proactive steps that will create positive change.
And proactive steps were exactly what we took. The country exhaled a collective sigh of relief when President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, ushering in an era of new leadership for our floundering nation.
His inauguration was also a significant display of social progress, as Obama became the first black president, an accomplishment that seemed impossible as little as 65 years ago with the segregation of troops during World War II, or even as little as 18 years ago when the Watts riots erupted in Los Angeles. Obama’s feat was made even more momentous as he was inaugurated the day after 2009’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Another proactive step that made 2009 a good year was the beginnings of an international agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions that took place during December’s climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Even Chinese officials agreed to attend the conference, despite having been key adversaries of the United States in regards to the issue of monitoring toxic emissions. Securing China’s presence and openness to some form of a climate agreement during 2009 has blazed a trail for our leaders to create politically binding agreements to help preserve our planet’s resources.
Just as Obama’s inauguration served as a catalyst for social change and the climate summit created the framework for future emissions commitments, the recent decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan for a limited duration with an emphasis on training local forces puts an end in sight for a war that has gone on too long.
This year also brought good news when activists proved that the job of building a stronger future is not solely in the hands of politicians, as communities including students and families rallied behind important issues.
Many who were disappointed by the outcome of California’s November 2008 vote to ban gay marriages used 2009 to actively support same-sex couples who wished to wed. Those against Proposition 8 were tireless in their efforts during the past year that a federal trial began Monday to determine the constitutionality of the measure that bans same-sex marriage.
Other issues affected our student community on a local level in 2009, such as President Steven B. Sample’s decision to retire. The news initially disappointed our community, but if we look beyond the surface we can see that the change in leadership provides an opportunity to positively impact students’ lives at USC in 2010.
Though his presence will be missed, President Sample’s retirement presents a healthy challenge for the current generation of USC students and faculty to uphold his legacy of academic excellence and innovation, and hopefully encourage the Trojan Family to rise to the occasion.
Of course, it is impossible to refer back to 2009 as a good year without honoring Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the U.S. Airways pilot who miraculously landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after its engines were disabled when it hit a flock of birds during takeoff, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. His heroic act reminds us that, although there is much work to be done in crafting a better future, 2009 still gave us many tangible reasons to celebrate.
The relentless efforts made during 2009 didn’t satisfy the desire for instant gratification that our society usually enjoys via fast-food restaurants and online shopping, but these innovative strides have created an end in sight for many of the problems that previously made our futures look so bleak.
We must have patience while the steps taken in 2009 work slowly to improve the economy, end our involvement in war, heal our environment and increase peaceful international communication. Additionally, it is our responsibility to build upward from the groundwork that was laid last year.
We have so many resources at our fingertips, especially technological tools that can facilitate international communication as we make changes during 2010 — even President Obama already uses YouTube to make weekly addresses. If we continue this trend of using technology to extend our reach in creating a unified community, 2010 can set the stage for exciting large-scale change.
Because of the impact that this year’s choices will have on revitalizing our quality of life for the future, 2009 was definitely a good year.
Kelsey Clark is a sophomore majoring in print journalism.