“As in any year, there have been ups and downs for all of us,” said Emily Wierszewski, associate professor of English and composition at Seton Hill University (SHU). “I would probably describe it as a year that taught me a lot, both about myself and the world.”
As the last month of 2016 begins, Wierszewski reflected on everything that occurred throughout the year. One event that frequently made headlines was the 2016 United States presidential election. Multiple candidates were still in the race at the beginning of the year, but the race for the Democratic nomination narrowed down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. For the Republicans, the final three were Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
Clinton and Trump won their respective parties’ nominations and campaigned for the presidency, with Clinton becoming the first woman to win the candidacy of a major party. Third party candidates campaigned for the White House as well, with Gary Johnson representing the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein representing the Green Party. In the end, Trump won the election to become the 45th president of the United States.
“I feel like we definitely have a sense of a divided nation right now, but honestly, I think that would’ve happened with either candidate,” said Marisa Corona, a senior advocacy media and corporate communication major. “I think the whole focus on the election was not on the issues at hand. It was just attack mode from both sides.”
Along with the controversial U.S. election, the United Kingdom made headlines for voting to leave the European Union in June. Wierszewski said another significant event this year was the Syrian refugee crisis. Syria has been involved in a civil war since 2011, and according to the New York Times, the ongoing conflict has produced around five million refugees.
There were also environmental issues in the U.S., such as the water crisis in Flint, Mich. After it was revealed that pipes were leaching lead into the drinking water, government officials faced scrutiny because they allegedly knew about the dangers of the Flint River water. The recent controversy surrounding the Dakota Access pipeline, specifically in North Dakota, has also been making headlines. Thousands have protested the oil pipeline’s construction due to environmental concerns and because it would be constructed on native tribes’ lands.
The year also contained many acts of violence throughout the world, including the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. that killed 49 people.
“I hate the fact that we’ve become numb to it,” Corona said. “It’s become another day, another shooting.”
Many celebrities passed away in 2016 as well. The music world lost David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, Glenn Frey of The Eagles and “The Voice” singer Christina Grimmie. Actors who passed away include Gene Wilder, famous for his roles in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein,” Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov in the “Star Trek” reboot series and Alan Rickman, who portrayed Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” series. The world also lost authors Harper Lee, who wrote the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experiences in the book “Night.”
“I definitely recognize the genius and the legacy that they left behind,” Corona said. “I think it’s really special to be able to have that impact on people.”
Former U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan also passed away, along with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose vacancy has yet to be filled. Additionally, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro died Nov. 25.
The sports world mourned the loss of many icons as well, including boxer Muhammad Ali, golfer Arnold Palmer, hockey player Gordie Howe and Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. However, 2016 was still a big year for sports, as the Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although there were concerns about untreated water and the Zika virus, the games proceeded as planned. The U.S. won the most overall medals with 121 and most gold with 46. China had the second most overall medals with 70, followed by Great Britain with 67.
“The Olympics are one of my favorite sporting events,” said Riley Martin, a senior corporate communication major on the SHU men’s lacrosse team. “No matter what sport you like, everyone is extremely passionate about their country during the games. Even sports I knew nothing about were fun to watch and cheer at because it was athletes representing our country.”
In the National Football League, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in February to win their third Super Bowl championship. In the National Hockey League, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks in June to win their fourth Stanley Cup championship. Also in June, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to win their first championship in the National Basketball Association.
Most recently, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in November to win their third World Series championship in Major League Baseball and first in 108 years.
“As a Cubs Fan, to see Chicago come back from a 3-1 deficit was extremely stressful yet amazing to witness,” Martin said. “I think all Cubs fans were extremely confident and never gave up hope during the series. I am just happy they won the World Series finally, no matter how they did it.”
The year was also full of controversy surrounding athlete activism. One athlete who gained attention was football player Colin Kaepernick, who chose to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Other athletes have followed Kaepernick’s stance or stood up for other beliefs, drawing mixed reactions.
“I think pro athletes are role models to young adults and children, and it is important for them to set a standard amongst kids the right way,” Martin said. “Many people look up to pro athletes, so I think it is okay for them to speak their minds and support important issues. I do believe there are some issues athletes should stay away from, but for the most part it is important to stand up for what you believe in.”
Conversations about different issues were also present surrounding one of the biggest pop culture staples of the year: The Broadway hit “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Although the show premiered in 2015, it received 16 Tony nominations and won 11 in June. The musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is about the life of U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
“The issues they talk about are still relevant today,” Corona said. “The fact that this is how people used to run the country, with wit, and focus on the issues at hand…looking at that, and what we experienced this election, I think we all can learn something.”
As 2016 comes to an end, history will remember the year for various reasons. Wierszewski said as 2017 grows closer, she is reminded of a tweet from Pope Francis: “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.” She said her hope for the new year is to follow this advice.
“I’m always hopeful,” Corona said. “I kind of just focus on myself and what I can do. How can my role in society be significant?”