Shalane Flanagan won the TCS NYC Marathon this week – the first American woman to do so in 40 years, and the sight of her sweeping into Central Park was spectacular. In the same race, the greatest American male marathoner in a generation, Meb Keflezighi, was washed by oceans of teary-eyed applause as he crossed the finish line to retire from professional racing.
I mention it because this week also marks the one-year anniversary of the presidential election. In the twelve months since, the partisan canyon has grown ever deeper. Violence has at times replaced debate. Bitterness has grown like weeds. In a poll by the American Psychological Association, six in ten of us said this is the lowest point we’ve ever seen for the nation.
But maybe we should not feel so glum – or at least we should not let it overtake us. Because when you look past the manic insanity of D.C., it’s worth remembering how many great things are happening. I’m not talking about any political party or agenda. Just about us.
Unemployment is at its lowest rate in 17 years. Yes, the economic recovery which started under President Obama has been slow and worries remain about wage stagnation, but progress continues under President Trump. The stock market has boomed. Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high. And housing values look pretty great, too.
Teen pregnancies, long a precursor to poverty for many young women, dropped to a record low. The high school graduation rate rose to a record high – above 83 percent. Those are both milestones worth celebrating even as we strive to expand educational opportunity and success. Just as important is what we are doing with our educations: groundbreaking research to help paralyzed people walk again, to steadily erode the killing capacity of cancers, to make highways safer through robotically assisted cars, and on and on it goes.
Of course, plenty of troubles remain. The opioid epidemic. Environmental concerns. Gun violence creeping upward after years of remaining level. Income disparity. North Korea. Like I said, plenty.
But even as the wars of Washington rage, Americans of all stripes are trying every day to improve conditions in their families, communities, offices, schools, parks, playgrounds and places of worship. And it’s worth remembering Shalane won. And Meb hung up his shoes with honor. And we are all still in the running.