Happy Days Are Here Again
Democracy is imperfect and, at times, ugly but here in the United States of America it is ever so resilient. That is a key lesson that I’ve learned over these past four years and, in some ways, I am thankful to have experienced it so early in my life.
Our country has faced countless crippling challenges since its founding including world wars, much less a civil war, the Great Depression, and social strife over race, gender, and equality the likes of which are hard to imagine. And, as hard has these past four years have been, what with the Trump presidency tarnishing America to the world while attacking the concept of decency, the environment, and our own citizens, today we have again proven that ours is a political system that works. No matter the setbacks, no matter the mistake that otherwise good Americans made in supporting a selfish tyrannical madman, the time has come to get on with solving the solvable problems. And that most certainly includes our climate crisis.
Four years ago I was certain that our great country was about to elect its first woman into the Executive Branch and was so very honored to work directly with the person who seemed certain to become America’s first female President. When I was asked to meet and then introduce Secretary Clinton and Vice President Gore here in Miami at her campaign’s only environmental event of the 2016 election, I spoke with sincere passion not only for our environment but as a young woman inspired to see another woman about to be elected into our nation’s highest office.
When I went to bed the night of the 2016 election it was clear that my dream was about to come true, yet when I awoke the next morning America had stepped into what I surely thought was a nightmare. I don’t mind sharing that I cried for three days after hearing of the election’s final outcome, wondering how America could elect such a self-absorbed, seemingly shallow person, much less someone of such questionable character towards women and our precious environment.
That pain, and the extremity of the Trump Administration’s indecency, have strangely been, in retrospect, valuable lessons for me. I thought that I had sensed how difficult these past four years might be but the reality has been far worse than I could have imagined and thus makes watching things change for the better today all the more powerful.
Amidst a global pandemic, in which the only “winning” America has done is in death and sickness, finding happiness can seem hard but the change that now surrounds us, that was formally implemented during the inauguration, leads me to believe that Happy Days are just ahead for America. With a new direction, new leadership and (FINALLY) a woman in the Executive Branch I hope you don’t mind me sharing my sense of happiness before we get on with the hard work that’s ahead of us.
So rather than remaining fixed on that horror show that was the Trump presidency, allow me to consider some of the positive signs we can celebrate related to science the likes of which were impossible to find over the last four years.
Want happiness? Consider that before their first day on the job ends, President Biden and VP Harris have taken remarkable steps:
- Today the United States began the process to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Yes, we’ve lost four years at a time when we don’t have any days to lose and, yes, America has must regain its credibility in a world that rightfully has seen other nations laugh (and likely cry) over Trump’s attack on the environment, including rolling back countless regulations intended to address our role in warming, but today’s step is a positive one for sure. Rejoining the world’s nations in support of cooling earth is a no brainer, but the next steps will require serious, significant investment. And the sooner we make that investment and put our money where our hearts, minds, and mouths, the better.
- For the first time in history a President will make our nation’s Chief Science Officer a member of the Cabinet. Just as education, transportation, defense, and other Cabinet roles are important to our society, so too will science join our nation’s focus as a rightful priority. And with 2020 setting the record for the highest amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, along with being the warmest year in history (tied with 2016), America needs to transparently focus on facts, truth, and science like never before. Bravo President Biden. Bravo indeed.
- And as yet another symbolic step towards sustainability and away from our antiquated fossil fuel polluting past the President will terminate the Keystone XL Pipeline project. My indigenous friends in places like La Plant, South Dakota will be happy to see today’s Executive Order reversing President Trump’s, but all Americans should see this as an extremely positive step in the right direction.
4. The rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards that former President Trump induced have been reversed, decisions to slash the size of several national monuments have been undone, a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been enforced, and a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses has been re-established.
Of course I realize that “happy days” will not magically appear with the arrival of a new President or the reversal of some bad decisions made by his predecessor. And I certainly realize that there is excruciatingly hard work ahead of America and every American to fix what’s broken. But that’s okay. America is built to be resilient, to overcome its challenges and adversity, as well as to lead the world into the future. I truly believe that that is the case.
And to those not yet so sure, then let me take you back to downtown Miami on a sunny afternoon last November where I saw that spirit up close and in person on the streets the day President Biden and VP Harris were declared the winners of last year’s election. In what was one of the most special days of my life I joined a who’s who of Miami as we celebrated by dancing in the streets, as I shared in a blog that I posted last November that you can read here. It felt, well, like collectively we were chasing rainbows.
Every color and language and age and interest that you can imagine that makes up this incredibly diverse place that I call home was euphoric and in concert with one another that day. Music from all over the hemisphere washed over us as thousands of cars slowly rolled by, many with passengers leaning up and out and banging on pots and pans in sheer joy. We danced together. Sang together. Waved flags and signs and our hands together. Just remembering that day gives me goosebumps as I write these words. But what I want you to know is what I saw on the faces from my incredibly diverse fellow Americans that day was more than celebration or relief.
I saw a commitment to one another that was inspiring and leads me to know that our best days as a nation are ahead of us. By working together we can fix what’s broken and that’s especially true for my youngest followers. Today President Biden and Vice President Harris started to lead America down a historic and positive path, but it’s up to you and I to now do and demand the hard work to truly fix things. The work ahead of us will define our time here on earth and, yes, it will define us as Americans, but it is so very possible as it is important to our country and the world beyond.
Yes, Happy Days Are Here Again and I can’t wait to get to work.