justin salters

Justin Salters

It goes without saying that 2017 has been quite the year.

I always spend the latter portion of December reflecting on the prior year. And this year has provided plenty to reflect on. It’s been an adventure for both the Salterses and our entire nation.

In April, my wife and I said goodbye to our first house and moved into a new (to us) home in an older tract closer to downtown (and our families). While we’ve enjoyed the big trees and wider streets, what we’ve appreciated most is the hospitality of new neighbors who treat you like longtime friends. Several of them are readers: Thank you for the warm welcomes you’ve extended to Emily and me.

I finished my first year at a new job. Emily co-chaired another successful fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Kern County and was invited to join their board. I joined the pages of The Bakersfield Californian as a contributing columnist. Vacations, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and funerals.

But without a doubt, the most exciting news in the Salterses’ home came this September. Emily and I found out we are expecting. My wife is pregnant with our first child, a daughter, due this June. The adventure is only beginning.

There is a hopefulness with which I perceive our future. But trust me: when I look at the future, it is not through rose-colored lenses or a naiveté that there will never be difficulties or setbacks in life.

This December we are celebrating a healthy pregnancy. But, that pregnancy came after 16 months of struggle and one successful surgery at UCLA Urology. Last December, we received news that questioned whether we would ever have a child of our own.

A lot can change in a year.

When I look back – whether it be over the past year, decade or my entire life – the bad times are never as bad as they might seem in the moment. The key to overcoming difficulty lies in the development of resilient optimism.

If we can train ourselves to be optimistic, when life gets difficult we will have the mental toughness to persist and succeed. It is not just a belief that better days are ahead, but a dedication to work and making those days occur.

What is true at the granular level of a nuclear family is also true at the macro level of a nation.

The past year has indeed been challenging. Protests. Resistance. But also, progress.

January 20, 2017, saw the inauguration of a president many of us never saw coming. I’ll be the first to admit it.

When I watched Donald Trump descend an escalator at Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan two years prior, I thought the entire effort was a charade. A lame attempt to boost the popularity of a reality TV star via national politics. I never predicted Trump to persist through, much less win, the general presidential election.

And while the past year has seen discourse deteriorate, civility shoved aside and an overall sense of unease preoccupy much of our national politics, 2017 has also been a year of accomplishment.

It serves us well to consider a few of those accomplishments.

ISIS has been dealt a de facto defeat. As columnist Ross Douthat noted in the New York Times, America and its allies managed to win a war that just two years ago consumed headlines and dominated political debate. Few seemed to notice.

The expansion of the federal bureaucracy – one of the greatest threats to economic vitality – has reversed course. Republicans in Congress have worked with President Trump to eliminate two regulations for each one promulgated.

The stock market continues to set new records, as investors demonstrate confidence in the current administration’s commitment to a favorable business climate.

To cap it all off, just this month Congress passed the biggest tax reform in three decades. And while there will be some who fare worse under the new tax code (present company likely included), we have already seen businesses react to tax reform by instituting across-the-board raises and granting one-time bonuses. This is a tax reform that will benefit most Americans.

There is still much to be done.

We must continue to fight against the tides of identity politics and nationalist populism. Enact a permanent solution for the Dreamers and fix our broken immigration system. Address the social decay at the heart of national ills like the opioid crisis, toxic stress syndrome and our widening achievement gap.

The solution to these troubles won’t be found in any man or woman, though.

We must each commit ourselves to doing the work needed to create those better days. And, we must remember that those days begin in homes and neighborhoods. If we develop resilient optimism around our dinner tables, it won’t be long before it catches across the nation.

Ultimately, when I look back at 2017, I’m filled with hope for all that 2018 will be. I hope you feel the same.

Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics, culture and civic engagement; the views expressed are his own. Reach him at Facebook.com/thatjustinsalters, Twitter @justinsalters or justin@justinsalters.com.

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