Eight good things that happened in 2016
Let's be honest: 2016 was a tough year.
BY EMMA MARGOLIN, NBC News
(NBC News) - Let's be honest: 2016 was rough.
Yet amid the bad, the ugly and the end of Brangelina, there was still some good you might have missed while you were standing in your room crying to Joni Mitchell.
Here is the year that was in good news.
1. Unemployment hits lowest level since the recession
The unemployment rate in November fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest in nine years, the Labor Department said earlier this month. To compare: When President Obama took office in 2009, the unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent.
2. Simone Biles takes Rio by storm
With 14 total world championship medals, 19-year-old Simon Biles arrived in Rio already a star. It was her near-perfect performance at the Olympics, however — which netted four golds and a bronze — that cemented her legacy as the greatest female gymnast who ever lived.
3. The Cubs overcome their World Series curse
No matter what team you root for, it was hard not celebrate alongside the Chicago Cubs after they won their first World Series in 108 years. As legend has it, the team was cursed in 1945 when tavern-owner William "Billy Goat" Sianis was kicked out of Game 4 of the Cubs' World Series game against the Detroit Tigers for bringing his smelly billy goat, Murphy. On his way out, Sianis is reputed to have declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more," thus spawning the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat that lasted seven decades.
4. Women of color make history on Election Night
Several women of color made political history last month when they were elected to prominent leadership positions within their respective states. California Attorney General Kamala Harris became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the Golden State; Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American lawmaker in the U.S. with her election to the Minnesota legislature; Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina senator in history when she won her U.S. Senate bid in Nevada; and Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian-American congresswoman with her victory in Washington state.
5. "Lemonade" and other musical triumphs
Few albums in history have managed to be as simultaneously vulnerable and powerful as "Lemonade" — Beyonce's sixth solo record that laid bare an important slice of black womanhood. Indeed, "Lemonade" was an artistic feat so monumental, it helped ease the pain inflicted by the deaths of some of music's greatest legends. But it wasn't the only great album of 2016: Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest and Beyonce's own sister, Solange, also created stunning music this year.
6. "Hamilton" exists
For most people, any bad day can be made slightly brighter by the mere thought that "Hamilton: An American Musical" is out there and might, one day, be enjoyed by you again or for the very first time. In June, the hip-hip Broadway sensation took home 11 Tony Awards — including Best Musical, the biggest prize of all. But the most moving moment of the ceremony came when show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda delivered his emotional "Love is love is love" speech while accepting the award for Best Score. Hours earlier, a lone gunman had killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
7. U.S.-Cuba relations thaw
President Obama made history in March when he became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba in 88 years, culminating 15 months' worth of effort to reestablish diplomatic relations between the two countries. In addition to Obama's trip, Cuba and the U.S. have both taken steps since 2014 to end decades of hostility by opening embassies, restoring commercial flights and negotiating agreements on a range of issues — including the environment, law enforcement and communications. There is looming uncertainty, however, as to whether President-elect Donald Trump will maintain warmer relations with the communist country once he takes office.
8. Giant panda is no longer endangered
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, a leading environmental group, said in a report this fall that the giant panda is now classified as a "vulnerable" species, rather than "endangered." According to the group, the wild panda population jumped to 1,864 in 2014 — up from 1,596 in 2004 — marking a significant achievement for Chinese agencies working to enforce poaching bans and expand forest reserves.