This year is coming to a close in less than a month. Although the U.S. hasn't been untouched when it comes to tragedy and violence, a number of inspirational moments from 2015 show that love will always trump hate. Achieving unity and understanding between people has become pertinent in the face of the gun violence, terrorist attacks, and cultural divides which are often the most prominent subjects of the news. It's important to remember that behind the negativity, there is solidarity among people and technological and social progress. 2015 should be remembered for its best moments, which include legal rulings, scientific breakthroughs, and incredibly strong moments of worldwide unity.
Twitter users have effectively branded the year's events with recognizable hashtags — #JeSuisParis, #BlackLivesMatter, #RefugeesWelcome, #PlutoFlyBy, #TheDress (obviously), and #Election2015. In some ways, these have helped define what's most important to people around the world. Other events, although also important, haven't garnered the same attention from the public eye, or quickly fizzled in popularity. Nonetheless, the messages they deliver are equally worth mention. This handful of moments emphasizes a world whose people stand together in strength to make it a better place, regardless of their differences and the obstacles that face them daily.
1. SCOTUS Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage
Over a decade ago, same-sex marriage was only legal in Massachusetts. Today, it's legal in every state. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. #LoveWins. The 5-4 decision was monumental in its efforts to improve social equality. Although there are more LGBTQ rights which have yet to be guaranteed — think medical care and workplace regulations — the change represents an incredibly positive first step in the right direction.
2. Solidarity In The Face Of Global Terrorism
After ISIS attacked Paris on Nov. 13, the world stood up to the militant extremist group by showing its support for Paris. Of course, political leaders were in contact with one another and addressed their nations, but the art inspired by the tragedy was perhaps the most beautiful sign that we are eager to show sympathy for those we don't know, but can relate with nonetheless.
After Facebook released a French flag filter so that users could display their support for the country, comments about the lack of support for non-Western nations which have also suffered at the hands of ISIS came to the surface, sparking a realization that was both overdue and painfully necessary. Recognizing that other parts of the world — such as Beirut, which was attacked the day before Paris — are also victims of terrorism was another extremely important outcome of this event. #PrayForParis transformed into #PrayForTheWorld.
3. U.S. Mayors Accept Refugees
In addition to overlooking the bombings in Beirut, the Western world seemed to show more sympathy for those suffering from natural disasters (such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti) than for those suffering in Syria during one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history. More than half of U.S. governors said that they would bar Syrian refugees from entering their states, out of fear that ISIS members would gain a direct avenue into the country. In response, 18 U.S. mayors addressed a joint letter to the President saying that their cities were willing to accept the refugees. Hopefully, their decisions inspire a sense of compassion in more citizens and politicians. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was among the 18, and explained her decision in a recent speech:
Our cities have been transformed by the skills and the spirit of those who come to us from around the world ... The drive and enterprise of immigrants and refugees have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.
4. The World Got Serious About Fighting Climate Change
At a Dec. 1 news conference in Paris, President Obama explained the importance of addressing climate change immediately:
This one trend, climate change, affects all trends ... This is an economic and security imperative that we have to tackle now. Great nations can handle a lot at once.
Currently, the UN Climate Conference is taking place. Negotiators from 195 nations have already agreed on a still-developing deal to reduce global carbon emissions. Additionally, 20 countries (including the U.S.) have agreed to double their spending to invest in clean energy research over the next five years. High-profile celebrities such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have agreed to invest money to help private businesses become involved in the public research. Aside from investing mass amounts of money to the cause, their involvement will raise awareness around this issue, which still doesn't have enough of the public eye.
5. All Military Positions Are Open To Women
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced on Dec. 3 that all military positions, including combat ones, will be open to women beginning in January. The landmark decision represents a huge step forward in gender equality in the military. Women will be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll also be able to serve as Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers, and everything other job that was previously open only to men.
6. A Model With Down's Syndrome Shows Us Real Beauty
#BodyPositive has been trending, and women (and men!) around the nation are being encouraged to embrace their flaws and resist the impossible-to-reach level of beauty propagated by the media and fashion industries, which use Photoshop to create insane standards. Actress and model Jamie Brewer disproved that standard by becoming the first person with Down's syndrome to participate in a New York Fashion Week catwalk runway — and she killed it. She walked in support of the "Role Models Not Runway Models" campaign.
7. A NASA Spacecraft Successfully Travels to Pluto
Humans' capability to create amazing technology is stunning, and this particular example represents just one of the ways we are using it to learn more about our beautiful universe. NASA spacecraft New Horizons did a flyby of Pluto in July, after traveling more than two billion miles through space. Cheers to human discovery and innovation.
8. Pope Francis Encourages Unity Between Muslims and Christians
Recent attacks by ISIS have created an unfortunate backlash global against Muslims, and inspired a fear that causes people to forget that in some parts of the world, Muslims are actively being persecuted by Christians. On Nov. 30, Pope Francis traveled to Bangui, a center of refuge for Muslims living in the Central Africa Republic, which has been subject to religious violence. Despite the apparent dangers, Francis traveled through the crowds in an open vehicle, and made an address to the CAR Muslim community from which the entire world can learn:
Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. We must, therefore, consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such ... Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, salam.