The Top 10 Most Important News Stories of 2011

Judging the importance of a news story is difficult because “important” has many different meanings. One might suggest that the popularity of a news story makes it “important.” In that case, the divorce of Kim Kardashian, or Demi and Ashton, might be the most important news story of 2011. In my estimation, an “important” news story is one that changes the game, that redefines the world we live in, or that is representative of a much larger development that will shape our future. I believe these were the top 10 news stories, in order, that mattered:

10. The European financial crisis. Not since the creation of the Euro have we witnessed a more robust debate about the Euro and the European Union. Countries like Greece and Spain struggled to survive economically, and the Germans, of all ironies, were left to rescue members of the EU and then to again dominate Europe politically for the first time since World War II. All of this may have seemed like an ocean away, but the U.S. economy and markets are directly impacted in ways that are not yet clear, but that could force the US economy back into a recession.

9. The Republican debates for the presidential nomination. The Republican debates, scattered throughout the fall, were entertaining television, as each tried to “out conservative” the other for the support of the Republican base. The “anyone but Obama” sentiment evolved into an “anyone but Mitt” contest in which Republicans kept promoting every candidate, only to then abandon them weeks later as the party sought to define its future. Which Republican Party emerges from this national debate will be interesting to see as the primaries begin next week. Will it have more in common with mainline moderate Republicanism of Romney and Gingrich? Or the libertarianism of Ron Paul? Or the social conservatism of Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party? What is certain is that the candidate who emerges will have a worthy opponent in Barack Obama, and we should be in for a most important debate that will engage us in a national conversation about our future at a most crucial time for us all.

8. The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. President Obama, with the assistance of Secretary of Defense Gates, was successful in ending the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy which had led the dismissal of hundreds of qualified gay and lesbian US military service members. It had taken a decade to unwind this unfortunate policy that punished those who wished to serve their country with integrity and honesty, but the end of the program came to an end with hardly a whimper of protest, and gay civil rights seemed to be emerging as a mainstream American position with the end of DADT.

7. The termination of the Space Shuttle program. When it was unveiled in the 1970s, the Space Shuttle program was the next great American adventure into space, and it represented an American dominance of the future. As the expensive and aged program finally was laid to rest in this age of debt and budget cuts, Americans were reminded that this is an age in which the American dream seems to be facing the harsh edges of reality rather than the hopes of unlimited possibilities, both in the sky and at home.

6. The end of the war in Iraq. As the last troops marched out of Iraq a few weeks ago, the eight year war and occupation of Iraq came to an end. It not only seemed to be the end of a war, but the end of an era of American triumphalism and military dominance. Our military is still the largest and best in the world, but Iraq taught us that the military can’t change cultural and tribal allegiances, only the battlefields on which they are fought. Nevertheless, our troops leave Iraq in a relatively stable and peaceful state, though its future is uncertain. What is certain is that America is unlikely to pursue any similar venture again.
5. The death of Steve Jobs. While I certainly expect Apple’s dominance in the computing and mobile device sector to continue to gain market share at exponential levels into the near future, it is certain not to be the same without its visionary leader. Steve Jobs made computers and technology fun, engaging and in service of being human. And his contributions were not just in the computer and mobile device market. He was one of the leaders of Pixar Pictures who fought for its dedication to rich storytelling and technical perfection. Most of all, I was struck by the impact of Jobs’ death on the Millennial Generation. For them, the loss of Jobs was akin to the loss of Kennedy or Reagan for the rest of us. I believe their reaction to Jobs and his death signaled that this generation will seek heroes among entrepreneurs and innovators, and not political leaders.

4. The shooting of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords was a national tragedy, but its impact civilized our discourse and changed the tone of our political conversations. Political conversation prior to this event had become overly acrimonious, racist in tone, and uncivilized in a way that was tearing apart our country. While the debate still rages, and is sure to do so in 2012, we are a more tolerant and kinder country. Don’t believe me? The prime time shows of Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck were history within weeks of the shooting. We’re all better for it, and Gabriella remains an inspiration.

3. Occupy Wall Street / Protests throughout the United States. It took three years for it to happen, but the frustration over the financial collapse, high unemployment, and the growing income disparity between the poor and the wealthy in the United States finally spilled into the streets. It was time, as it appeared previously that Americans weren’t paying attention to the developments that would eventually would lead to the demise of the middle class. I don’t endorse all of the ideas of Occupy, nor any of the violence, but I wholeheartedly believe this is a conversation we should be having in America right now, and Occupy finally started the conversation. We all now know the meaning of “the 1%.”

2. The deaths of Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Il and Muamar Ghadaffi. Two of these events were the culmination of a lengthy effort by the US and NATO to eliminate terrorists and to overthrow dictators. Osama’s destruction came about after a very successful and sustained operation by the Bush and Obama Administrations to kill terrorists using the drone, military operations and secret intelligence. It was the courage of the Navy Seals, the determination of the Libyan people, and the leadership of President Obama that finally secured the end of two of the world’s most evil terrorists.

1. The Arab Spring. Pro-democracy protests sprang up all over the Middle East and North Africa during the spring and summer of 2011, and I dare say that none of us could have imagined that it would happen a year ago. Courageous citizens took to the streets, empowered by the knowledge and technology of the Internet, to demand a change to their dictatorial and freedom-oppressing regimes. Governments crumbled, and a new birth of freedom began to take hold. The vision of democracy in the Middle East, articulated by President George W. Bush in his 2nd Inaugural Address, and furthered along by President Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, was becoming a reality in places we never dreamed it possible.

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Comments
3 Responses to “The Top 10 Most Important News Stories of 2011”
  1. Todd,
    Hope you are well. Curious about your thoughts on one story. Did the death of the North Korean leader not make the list because you don’t believe it will make much of an impact or because it is so recent that we have no idea of the lasting impact the story will make?

    Farland

    • toddbouldin says:

      Farland, that’s a great point, and just an oversight on my part. I think it potentially has enormous consequences because a younger generation can sometimes surprise us with their shifts away from their fathers, but so far, I don’t foresee too much change.

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