On the face of it, 2012 revealed the worst of the society’s ills — toxic partisan politics, horrific shootings and devastating natural disasters. But many positive trends, some blooming through social media and the internet, also cheered our souls. Here is the Good News Network’s year in review: the top ten stories of hope and achievement.
We began the year with January 12 marking a milestone in the march for children’s health as India celebrated one year without a recorded case of new polio infection.
10) India Hails its First Polio-Free Year
$1 billion and 23 years of volunteer work donated by Rotary club members worldwide made the dream a reality. The incidence of infection plunged during that time from 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010. Tens of millions of dollars was also donated to the cause by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who declared, “Children in India are now protected against this debilitating, but preventable disease.”
9) In Age of Bullying, Special Needs Student Elected Prom King
In May, Scott Shaver and Katie Buell were crowned prom king and queen at Westview High School in San Diego. Katie is an all-American girl, class president, champion in girls basketball, and an absolute sweetheart, according to her teachers. Yet, it seems every student, no matter their ability, is accepted and treasured. Scotty, as the kids call him, is a HUGE personality at the school, brought out of his shell over four years by the nurturing attention given, not only by specialized staff who have tutored him as a special needs student with autism, but by the accepting student body. The senior class nominated Scotty to the ballot not as a joke, said Scott Wild, a teacher and student advisor at the school, “but as a sincere tribute to him because they love him, respect him, and appreciate him.” (Read more)
8) Aung San Suu Kyi ‘Wins Landslide Landmark Election’ as Burma Rejoices
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other leaders in the National League for Democracy claimed a landslide victory in a series of election contests in April, after spending much of the last two decades under arrest. They were freed in 2010 in a surprise move by Myanmar officials, and benefitted from a series of political reforms, which ended that country’s isolation. President Obama visited the country, formerly known as Burma, in November, to help sustain the momentum toward change.
7) Stray Pit Bull Saves a Woman and Child From Attacker
Even though pit bulls are known to attack and maim, they can also be wonderful pets — and often, heroes. In May, a bull named Lilly pulled her unconscious owner from the path of a freight train, and was severely hurt in the process.
But another story, in March, truly revealed an instinct of this breed to protect, even if the person is a stranger. A Florida woman was leaving a playground with her toddler in Port Charlotte when a man approached her in the parking lot and threatened her at knife point. Suddenly a Pit Bull who had been wandering the area charged the man, growling and barking until the attacker fled in surrender. The dog had never met the woman or child before, yet defended them as their guardian angel.
6) London Olympics: Most Decorated Athlete Ever and the Uplift of a Nation
Swimmer Michael Phelps won 4 gold and 2 silver medals in the London games — his 18th career gold medal and 22nd overall — becoming the most decorated Olympian ever. Other stories of athletic achievement also warmed our hearts for two weeks in August. The Games of the XXX Olympiad were also the greenest Olympics ever, planned with an emphasis on sustainability.
The most precious and unexpected result of the London Olympics, though, was the mood of national confidence and enthusiasm they generated in Great Britain. “Hosting the Olympics has boosted national morale more than any single event in most people’s living memory,” reported the Independent. “The capital and the country have been transformed.” British audiences applauded even victorious rivals, and displayed special affection toward those who came in last.
5) Three Major Cancer Breakthroughs, One is Discovered by a 15-Year-old
— Three independent studies have now shown that our understanding of the physical makeup of cancer tumors may have been based on a myth. Researchers have identified “cancer stem cells” to be responsible for causing a tumor to grow and develop.
— A new breakthrough that provides early detection for the most lethal form of cancer was created by a 15-year-old Maryland teen, after his mom drove him to Johns Hopkins University every night after school to test his theory in a lab. Jack Andraka won the top prize at the Intel Science Fair for his new and simple dip-stick method to detect pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer, which is 90% accurate and 28 times less expensive.
— Stanford researchers identified an antibody that was found to dramatically shrink or eradicate human cancer tumors that were transplanted into laboratory mice, no matter which type of cancer created the tumor. The research is unique because seven different types of cancer responded to the antibody.
4) Entire Town Turns the Table on Bullying School Pranks
When so many examples of bullying were in the news this year, it is heartening to hear of several uplifting outcomes. A tiny farming town in Michigan rallied around a 16-year-old girl in September who became humiliated when her high school voted to elevate her to the homecoming court as a joke and then laughed at her in the hallways. In an inspiring turnaround, Whitney Kropp’s embarrassment gained her thousands of friends and supporters who helped make her night unforgettable.
Also in the Midwest, a high school football captain seeing classmates taunted on Twitter decided that online bullying should not be a spectator sport for his Minnesota town. So the 17-year-old, Kevin Curwick, quietly set up a Twitter account, @OsseoNiceThings, to praise students in need of a social facelift. Since then, Twitter posts attacking his classmates have disappeared — and other towns are copying his uplifting actions. (See more inspiring stories about anti-bully heroes here, and here.)
3) Mars Rover Beats the Odds, Lands on Red Planet
Curiosity, the largest and most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet, stuck an extraordinary landing in triumphant and flawless fashion on August 5. NASA’s $2.5-billion mission involved the work of more than 5,000 people from 37 states, some of whom had labored for 10 years to hear the two words, “Touchdown confirmed.” Inside mission control, engineers who had been chewing the insides of their cheeks and bouncing their legs nervously leapt to their feet, embracing, high-fiving and, in some cases, weeping with joy, wrote Scott Gold in the LA Times. (Watch the video of scientists cheering)
2) Strangers Raise $600,000 to Give Bullied Bus Driver a Vacation
A former bus driver, who in her senior years works as a bus monitor, sat patiently through ten minutes of relentless and brutal bullying by middle school kids on her route, while a video camera recorded the sorry scene. The video went viral and an online social media community so sympathized with her that they raised money to send her on a vacation — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The woman, Karen Huff Klein, now retired, started a foundation with some of the money.
1) 2 Billion More Get Safe Water to Drink; UN Goal Achieved
The goal of reducing by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water has been achieved well ahead of the 2015 deadline for reaching the globally agreed target. Over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources between 1990 and 2010, the United Nations said in March.
“Today we recognize a great achievement for the people of the world,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said upon the release of the report. “The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the Millennium Development Goals not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of those in extreme poverty.”
- Featured photo by greyerbaby, via Morguefile