There was no shortage of depressing news to go around in 2017, as anybody who read the news this year knows. But despite the media's tendency to focus on the negatives, there were plenty of inspiring news stories in 2017 as well. In an inspired attempt to end the year on an optimistic note, former President Barack Obama tweeted some of that good news on Friday. He collected some of the most uplifting stories from 2017 in a Twitter thread as a reminder of "what's best about America."
"As we count down to the new year, we get to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead," Obama wrote on Friday. "For all the bad news that seemed to dominate our collective consciousness, there are countless stories from this year that remind us what's best about America."
Obama linked to three news stories from 2017 that, in essence, highlighted how humanity is capable of goodness. One story was about a postponed wedding party that morphed into a hurricane relief effort. Another centered on an NFL player who donated his entire year's salary to fund scholarships for low-income youth, while a third focused on a 10-year-old child who created "blessing bags" for the homeless. "That’s a story from 2017," Obama wrote after each news piece to which he linked.
Obama first wrote about Kat Creech, a wedding planner in Houston who inadvertently created a volunteer organization to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. When Harvey made landfall in Texas, Creech was forced to postpone a wedding she'd been planning for two of her clients. But rather than cancel the original event, Creech suggested that the wedding guests come out and volunteer for Harvey relief efforts instead.
They did exactly that. Soon, this impromptu, 30-person volunteer effort grew into Recovery Houston, a nationwide relief organization that's mobilized over 1,000 volunteers, gutted over 200 homes, and connected volunteers from around the country with Harvey victims, according to Click 2 Houston.
Next, Obama gave a shout-out to Chris Long, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. Long has made over $100 million during his time as an NFL player, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and so in 2017, he started giving his earnings to charity.
Initially, Long announced that he'd be donating his first six paychecks of the year to fund scholarships for children in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he's from. But he didn't stop there: Long eventually decided to use his remaining salary from the year to start Pledge 10 for Tomorrow, an initiative to increase educational equality in St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia — the three cities where Long has played during his NFL career.
“Football for me, while it’s fun, I don’t get the fulfillment out of that alone," Long said on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November. "So, selfishly, the charity stuff makes me feel good. You know, not just playing ball. I’m doing something bigger than that.” Long later told NJ.com that it was "an honor" to be mentioned in Obama's tweet.
Lastly, Obama took a moment to praise Jahkil Jackson, a 10-year-old who makes and hands out "blessing bags" — kits with toiletries, socks, and food — to homeless people in Chicago. Jackson's parents say that their son has been passionate about helping the homeless since he was 5, and has since distributed over 5,000 blessing bags to Chicago's homeless.
Jackson won a 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for his efforts, and donated the $5,000 in prize money to Project I Am, a nonprofit that he founded to help him continue and expand his charitable giving.
“I want to make sure people in need aren’t just unknown,” Jahkil told the Chicago Tribune. “I think homeless people — most people don’t recognize them and walk past them and drive past them. I want to let people know that homeless people are people too.”
Obama used these three examples of good deeds in 2017 as a call to action, and a reminder that even in troubling times, everybody has the capacity to do good.
"All across America people chose to get involved, get engaged and stand up," Obama wrote at the end of his tweet thread. "Each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try. So go keep changing the world in 2018."