As the ‘90s approached its fateful conclusion and we said goodbye to a decade of relative prosperity, while welcoming the “Postmodern” age, the world was on the cusp of embarking on an unforeseeable future; the dawn of the 21st century would send civilization on a teetering peregrination, challenging American society to maintain its position as the dominant global force, testing our ability as a nation to be pragmatic and socially conscious in times of grave despair, questioning our moral fortitude, and forcing our society to acknowledge that the new millennium would be unlike any other.
It was time to wish President Clinton adieu, embrace President Bush, and look toward a brighter tomorrow with President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration. With the conclusion of 2014, it is as though each year has become more fleeting than its predecessor. We said goodbye to the comedic relief that Joan Rivers and Robin Williams gifted us, and reveled in the enduring images of love and hope that Maya Angelou so indelibly left behind. We are now obliged to welcome the onset of another year and all the uncertainty it brings.
But we have always lived through uncertain times. We have witnessed the world spiral out of control and into unfamiliar territory, one where natural disasters have dominated, poverty has spread at an improbable rate, and our hopes often contested by daunting headlines. The past few years have generated skepticism, propagated fear, and challenged us to look forward instead of behind. Misfortune and uncertainty will seldom vanish, but we can enter a new year with a novel outlook if we remind ourselves that the future remains full of hope.
Our ability to find refuge in the promise of tomorrow, while remaining open to dissecting each pivotal moment, is in itself an extraordinary victory. Every obstacle we are dealt creates opportunity for discussion, conversations that are crucial to bettering our tomorrow. Sony Pictures faced unprecedented hacks, sparking debate about ethics and security; deadly police encounters forced Americans to examine the state of race relations, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa tested the world’s compassion and ability to conquer what at first appeared an insurmountable feat. Even in the face of fatality, aid workers were fearless and proved that there is no obstacle larger than the human spirit.
The New Year has found us, bringing forth another unpredictable year and moment in time. Another beginning creates the opportunity to fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s dream, for America to “once again be seen as the last best hope of earth,” and to make JFK’s optimism — “a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose” – a reality.