2020 In Review: Five More People Who Got Us Through This Awful Year
Next in a weekly series until this monstrosity of a year is finally over.
This year has been awful: You don’t need me to tell you that. But to try to accentuate the positive of this year, if that’s even possible, every Friday until the end of the year I’ll shout out five people who got us through this wretched year. (Here is last week’s.) These people may work in politics, or entertainment, or the arts, or any field in America or around the world. All that matters is that their contributions to the world in 2020 made it a little easier for the rest of us to make it through.
Also, send me your recommendations and nominees at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Responses to this piece. Who has gotten you through this year?
The state of Georgia has been at the center of the political world all year, and it’s going to be even more so in 2021. Abrams, who famously just lost her gubernatorial race against Brian Kemp in 2020, picked herself up and started Fair Fight, a voter registration juggernaut that may just have turned Georgia blue and given Joe Biden the state. There’s another big test next month, but if Abrams and Fair Fight can somehow give the Senate back to the Dems, she’ll be an even bigger hero in her party than she already is. On deck? A rematch with Kemp in 2022. This is just getting started.
Dylan’s going to be 80 in May, but that’s no big deal: Have you seen how old Congress is? (How old the White House is?) He’s still, somehow, everywhere, releasing his first album of new material in eight years with the terrific Rough and Rowdy Ways and then shaking up the music industry by selling his entire catalog for $300 million. The only downside for Dylan: His infamous “Never Ending Tour” had to pause for Covid-19. But the second anyone can get back out there, you know that Dylan will be there first.
You know you are doing your job well when your mere presence inspires people to start buying khakis that look like yours. (Jim Harbaugh is no longer having this problem.) Steve Kornacki was not the only reporter who did splendid, clear-minded work on Election Night, and the endless Election Nights afterward, but he was the breakout star: It turns out that being able to do math is quite valuable, particularly when you can do it on live television when the fate of the republic is at stake.
It was a strange, disorienting, potentially destructive year for the movies, yet there was Spike Lee, once again, right in the middle of it. You see all those Top Ten Movies of the Year lists that are coming out right now? Lee (along with maybe Steve McQueen) is the only guy with two movies on many of them. His Da 5 Bloods was a hugely ambitious, relentlessly compelling story of four Black veterans returning to Vietnam and ending up part of a heist. He followed that up by turning David Byrne’s American Utopia into a glorious celebration of life, love, hope and a communal future we can both remember and imagine being right around the corner. And he did all this the year after finally winning his Oscar.
The economics professor at Brown University has long been one of the smartest, most rigorous minds on the science of parenting, but this year, she became an absolutely vital voice on the thorny, endlessly complicated question about whether or not schools should be open in a pandemic. Frustrated with the lack of centralized data nationwide, she built her own dashboard, and she has been a leading voice arguing that there are ways to open schools safely … and how damaging it can be for young children deprived of in-person learning. She has spoken clearly and with wisdom throughout this pandemic. If only were more listening.
Who are your nominees? Email me at email@example.com or leave them in the Responses.
Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.