As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to name the year’s biggest winners. Here’s a spotlight on those who came out on top:
By far, the biggest winners are the strong women and men who had the guts to step forward and name names in sexual harassment cases. It started last year when FOX News’ Gretchen Carlson took on FOX Chief Executive Roger Ailes, but 2017 was the year that saw the floodgates open. The first titans to fall were FOX’s Bill O’Reilly and Hollywood serial harasser Harvey Weinstein, and it snowballed from there. From politics (Sen. Al Franken, Roy Moore) to entertainment (countless producers and actors, such as Kevin Spacey), and from the media (Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose) to business (celebrity chefs and executives from the Miss America pageant) to sports, the high and mighty continue to drop with a resounding thud.
For the most part, the allegations have proven true, resulting in long-overdue changes in how American men interact with women. There must be diligence, however, to avoid turning it into a McCarthyistic witch hunt, where the accused are immediately tarred and feathered without due process. Not all accused men are guilty, and not everything is sexual harassment. Common sense must be utilized in how justice is administered, and each case must be judged on its own merits. Otherwise, we minimize the credibility of true victims, and destroy natural communication between the sexes.
And sorry Hollywood, but no credit for the top-name actresses who chose career over conviction, especially after making it big. Their willful action of looking the other way, so as not to rock the boat, allowed the next crop of aspiring young actresses to walk into the lion’s den, unaware of the lurking dangers. That’s not courage. It’s cowardice that enabled the behavior of monsters.
American Taxpayers: Say what you want about President Trump ï¿½“ and there’s a hell of a lot to say ï¿½“ he delivered on his promise of a significant tax cut. And it is a tremendous benefit for everyone, since great things always happen when people ï¿½“ not the government ï¿½“ control their hard-earned money. The resulting rising tide will lift all boats, just as it did after the tax cuts of presidents Kennedy and Reagan.
Yet there are still the naysayers ï¿½“ “expert economists” in their ivory towers ï¿½“ who seem opposed simply because it was passed by Republicans. Their argument that it will add $140 billion a year to a national debt is not just weak but absolutely irrelevant, given the America’s debt currently stands at $21 trillion. Moreover, the resulting boom will actually provide more tax revenue, not less, because Americans will gleefully spend their windfall, kicking the economy into overdrive. The real question is whether congress will have the guts to cap its spending. If they do that, America’s place as the world’s foremost economic powerhouse will remain unchallenged.
Charity and volunteers: America was hit hard by natural disasters in 2017, from raging wildfires on the Pacific coast to hurricanes that walloped Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. But, as always, the American government and its people rose to the challenge of helping those in need.
First responders from across the country flooded into the stricken areas to bring order out of chaos, restore power, and coordinate rebuilding efforts. And most endearing, they were there of their own volition to assist those who had literally lost everything ï¿½“ including loved ones.
Sure, they lent their lifesaving expertise and skills. But infinitely more impactful, they provided their fellow countrymen an ear, which listened to harrowing stories; arms, which provided that special hug that says, “everything will be alright;” and shoulders, on which people could cry, but shoulders strong enough to lift the grief-stricken out of despair.
Donating money to charities providing disaster relief is admirable and incredibly needed. But there is a special place for those who leave their loved ones behind for weeks on end, braving unfathomable conditions, to bring heart, soul and spirit to those who lost all three. Seeing a first-responder’s smiling face, and feeling the embrace of kinship, restores that which is needed most to rebuild homes ï¿½“ and lives: Humanity and hope.
And speaking of generous spirit, a collective “thank you” to all who donate to the less fortunate, especially during the holidays. From a turkey at Thanksgiving to a child’s winter coat, and from Christmas presents for the poor to the $200,000 anonymous contribution dropped in a Salvation Army kettle, Americans once again demonstrated why they are the most benevolent, kind-hearted people on the planet. Since that charity extends across the political spectrum, maybe, just maybe, we’re not nearly as divided as we think. Here’s hoping.
The Connelly Foundation and St. Mary Magdalen grade school in Media: Each year, the Connelly Foundation of Conshohocken awards Neumann Scholarships to 35 eighth-graders throughout the five-county Philadelphia region. Winners earn full scholarships to any one of seventeen archdiocesan high schools. On average, over 900 students, representing 112 schools, participate. This year, St. Mary Magdalen had an astounding four winners ï¿½“ an almost unheard-of feat ï¿½“ showing that, despite a difficult period of closings and consolidations, Catholic elementary schools, especially in Delaware County, are alive and well.
Not only does the Connelly Foundation program save millions in taxpayer dollars, but infinitely more important, it helps bolster an invaluable part of America’s fabric ï¿½“ Catholic schools. Amen.
Democrats: The Ds outworked, outhustled, and out-messaged their counterparts in 2017. That effort, combined with the effective use of Donald Trump as motivation to vote Democratic, resulted in substantial electoral gains. Such success could well be a harbinger for the critical 2018 midterm elections. Or, conversely, it may have lit a fire under the derriere of a complacent GOP base.
Many “ifs” remain that will determine if the Republicans face a bloodbath next year, or whether they can right their listing ship. Passing the tax cut ï¿½“ not long ago an “iffy” proposition ï¿½“ was a step in the right direction.
“If” the president can rein in his bombastic personality and start acting ï¿½“ well ï¿½“ presidential; “if” the GOP can free itself from the Beltway mentality and start communicating its message to the American people; and “if” the Republicans make good on their promises ï¿½“ reducing college costs, making infrastructure improvements, eliminating the North Korean threat; reforming immigration; and revamping bad trade deals ï¿½“ they will be back in the driver’s seat, controlling their own destiny.
But for a party that often snatches defeat from jaws of victory, nothing is a done deal. Either way, it promises to be a wild ride for both sides.
The Iggles: Finally, the Eagles are soaring. Despite the loss of Carson Wentz ï¿½“ admittedly a big blow ï¿½“ the team is firing on all cylinders, each week finding a new way to win. For the first time in forever, Philadelphians have a legitimate Super Bowl contender ï¿½“ a godsend in a city starved for success on the gridiron. And make no mistake, Philly is, and always will be, a football town.
The Birds’ ascent could not come at a better time. The Sixers, while rising, still have quite a ways to go. The Flyers seem forever stuck in mediocrity, with an all-but-guaranteed first-round playoff exit. And the Phillies reverted to being a minor-league franchise, whose biggest accomplishment in 2017 was adding to their dubious record of having the most losses of any professional team ï¿½“ ever. Over 10,000.
Fly, Eagles, Fly!
Look for the “Year’s Biggest Losers” next week.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].