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A look back, a look ahead

It’s finally here: 2019. The New Year is a great time to reflect on how things have gone in the past and where things are headed in the future. We’ve done this before, just 12 months ago, and it’s always a good exercise that, ideally, teaches us.

So, how was 2018? It was, inarguably, a difficult year. Presidential leadership, well, that could be an entire editorial in and of itself. It was, on the whole, troubling. President Trump got ugly at times. Here are just a few examples: 

He referred to nations in Africa, and Haiti, as “s***hole” countries. So much for respecting others and treating people and their cultures with dignity.

He insulted world leaders, like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on a regular basis, risking the security of the United States. In one tweet he stated, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Yikes.

He built walls, sent armed troops to our borders and divided families — leaving many children all alone in detention centers thousands of miles away from their parents. 

He stood by Paul Manafort, who led his campaign in 2016, and longtime personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen — until he didn’t. Both men were found guilty of crimes based on charges connected to the president and his actions. 

He made a huge gaffe in Helsinki, when he spoke of Russian interference with the 2016 election. “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’” the president said, adding that it was “sort of a double negative.” Afterward, he claimed he misspoke during his news conference with Russian President Vladi-mir Putin. The damage was  done, and the habit of double talk, misdirection and dirty politics repeated — as it’s so often been during Trump’s two years in office.

Outside of Washington, there have been other problems — deaths and tragedies. Mass  shootings, like the ones in Parkland, Fla., and Pittsburgh, Penn., reminded us of how dangerous the world can be. Hate and violence plagued us in 2018, much as in years prior.

There were natural disasters that tore across the country: volcanoes and fires, hurricanes and floods. People lost everything: their homes, their businesses, their possessions and their loved ones.

Hunger. Disease. War. Crime. It’s all been a part of the past year. And because people are people, it will continue to be a part of our lives. 

But there have been bright spots.

Around the world, and right here in our very own communities, there has been promise. People have volunteered, lent a hand to those in need. They have put action to words and helped out the hungry, the homeless, the homebound and the helpless.

People have also supported one another. When gay pride flags were torn down in Millbrook, residents came together in support of the LGBTQ community. The greater Hudson Valley joined in with its county-wide human rights commission addressing the issue, and reaching out to residents about how to generate good will and trust among all.

There is hope. Yes, the world can be disappointing, discouraging and dangerous. We acknowledge that. But it can also be open, supportive and inspiring. Humankind is flawed. No doubt about it. But there is a shared humanity — a shared experience — that draws people together and offers hope for our future. Embrace that. Treat your fellow man (and woman) with kindness, with justice, with compassion. Teach your children to be humane. Pass it on to everyone you meet. 

Welcome 2019 as an opportunity to do better, to learn more, to make peace. There’s no chance it will be a perfect year —experience has proven that. But do your part to make it the best year possible, because your intentions, your effort, count.