What can we say about 2021? While it definitely gets bonus points for NOT being 2020, we’re still—if we’re being honest—pretty eager to show it the door.
To set us on the right course for the year ahead, we put together a list of the seven most unforgettable events and moments of 2021. We hope you enjoy this quick look back at the year that was...
Item number 1
The COVID-19 Vaccines
The pandemic is far from over and troubling variants continue to pop up, but let’s recognize something truly remarkable: Just about everyone in the US 5 years old and older who wants a COVID-19 vaccine can get one for free. Yes, vaccine inequity continues to be a very real problem in the US and around the world, but the really good news is that vaccines are safe and effective and have prevented millions of people from getting severely sick and dying. Get your shots if you haven’t already!
Item number 2
Billionaires in Space
Space travel has long been a dream of humankind. Just imagine soaring off into the blue and beyond, deep into the cosmos, deep into the star-blurred infinite, plunging through nebulas, whizzing past comets, and perhaps touching the face of creation. So you can imagine how everyone reacted this year when a small number of obscenely wealthy people pretended to be astronauts and blasted off in a few private rockets that went really, really high. The world celebrated—only to discover that they were all coming back.
Item number 3
After a record-breaking year of legislative wins in 2021, cannabis was legalized in a bunch of new states (Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia). But despite this progress (36 states have now legalized cannabis for either medical or recreational use), Black people continue to be arrested for possession and face harsher and longer sentences behind bars far more often than white people. Legalization has helped create a cannabis industry worth tens of billions of dollars, and yet Black people, due in part to those discriminatory arrests, are being shut out.
Item number 4
The Conviction of Derek Chauvin
There cannot be any justice until racist police violence ends and we transform public safety in the US. But when a jury convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, they did something unexpected: They delivered accountability. This conviction was not a victory and it did nothing to bring back George Floyd or any of the other Black people who have been killed by the police. But in a country where police officers are almost never held accountable for their actions, the conviction of Derek Chauvin did provide a much-needed moment of relief.
Item number 5
Increased Diversity in Political Representation
In 2020, President Biden and Vice President Harris put together the most diverse cabinet in the history of the country. In 2021 candidates of color won big races down the ticket and across the country. Here are just a few examples:
• In Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor in the city’s history.
• Ed Gainey made history in Pittsburgh too, becoming the city’s first Black mayor.
• Aftab Pureva’s victory made him the first Asian American mayor in Cincinnati history.
Item number 6
The Historic Infrastructure Bill
The bipartisan infrastructure bill represents the country’s biggest-ever investment in climate resilience and a once-in-a-generation investment in rail, roads, bridges, and clean water—showing that, on occasion, Washington, DC, can still get things done. Some highlights:
• $110 billion for roads and bridges and major infrastructure projects
• $39 billion for public transit, the country’s largest-ever investment in repairing trains, railroads, buses, etc.
• $55 billion for clean drinking water, the government’s biggest-ever investment
Item number 7
COP26: A Missed Opportunity
While incremental progress was made on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, building a fossil-free future, and ensuring climate justice at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, we fear that it was too little, too late. With the planet heating up and some of the worst effects of climate change already beginning to impact us, we needed bolder, more urgent action—and we didn’t get it. Glasgow wasn’t a disaster, but we needed it to be a triumph.
Looking Forward to 2022
So long, 2021! Much work remains to be done, but we head into the new year feeling invigorated and ready to make progress on the challenges that face us.
There’s no limit to what we can accomplish in 2022 when we all work together!