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August 3
1975 - Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital opens with 100 beds [story]

The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Jan 17, 2015

JenniferFischerLast of three parts.

Here’s the rest of my A-Z list as I look back at 2014.

U is for Ukraine – The Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent violence that followed dominated headlines for much of the year and made many question Putin as Russia’s leader. Many doubted his motivates and the sovereignty and freedom of Ukrainians is still up for debate.

V is for Virgin Galactic Spaceship Crash – 2014 was supposed to be the year when Virgin Galactic made history through the first-ever spaceflight open to the general public. Tickets were not cheap and excitement was high, but the flight was postponed after the Virgin Galactic spaceship crashed.

W is for Women – It was the year of the woman in many ways. Many women stand out – many more than I can include here, so I will highlight a few.

Malala Yousafzai’s courage and bold commitment to education for girls made her a shining example for all of us. She is unwavering in her mission to promote and demand equal access to education for all, earning her a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize and the distinction of the youngest Nobel laureate.

Elizabeth Warren stood out for her unwillingness to engage in “business as usual” as a politician. She continues to stand up to Wall Street and big business.

Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza gave a movement a rallying cry through their creation of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, and 16-year-old Jada’s response to being sexually assaulted also demonstrated the power of social media as the #IAmJada hashtag allowed others to join her in solidarity as they also shed light on sexual assault.

Emma Sulkowicz took action to highlight sexual assault as well with her performance art at Columbia University. After being sexual assaulted, Sulkowicz vowed to carry her mattress with her around the campus until her victimizer is expelled. She is still carrying her mattress, and other women at campuses across the country have carried their mattresses in solitary.

Finally, Fatu Kekula was probably the year’s best example of the power that one individual can have on others. We often see change-makers as individuals who are famous or involved in politics, but Kekula showed that each of us has the ability to take important actions that will help others. Her innovative response when her family members contracted Ebola saved not only most of the family members in her care, but ultimately helped others, as well, as her methods were spread.

The mortality rate of those she treated using a homemade protection method of rubber boots, gloves, a mask and trash bags was 25 percent; the average is 70 percent. Despite treating many family members and not having the proper protective equipment, Kekula also did not contract the disease, and we’ve seen her protection method emulated by others.

X is for eXecutive Orders – Barack Obama, of course, made many headlines in 2014, but his executive actions regarding the issue of immigration were among the top actions of the year in terms of media attention and interest. We’ll continue to hear about those actions in this new year. His actions were connected to the inability of congress to get much of anything done (which was highlighted in part 1 of my series, C for Congress).

Y is for Youth – As I look at the series, I realize I’ve mentioned a lot of youth: Mo’Ne Davis (in part 2), Malala (above), Jada (above) and Emma (also above). In 2014, we also saw youth across the country become active in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, particularly in relation to the grand jury decisions not to indict the law enforcement officers who killed the two African American men.

Young people are making their voices heard in a variety of ways, whether it is through social media (Jada), artistic activitism (Emma), demonstrations and rallies, sports (Jada) or their written and spoken words, as is the case with Malala. I personally have seen the power of youth first hand in our local community and in my own world as I see high school students engaging others to collect canned food donations at their schools or in other acts of caring and activitism. I work with a young woman who has raised funds for free film classes for pediatric cancer patients. Youth can get a bad reputation as lazy or uncaring, but certainly this can be said about all youth. Many see themselves as empowered to create change.

Z is for Zealots – 2014 wrapped up with a terror attack in Pakistan on Dec. 16. The attack targeted a school where 140 students were killed, along with the insurgents themselves, who died during their battle with Pakistani military forces, which lasted eight hours. Unfortunately, it seems that fanatics using “religion” as a justification for brutal attacks are here to stay, as we’ve started off the new year with similar events in France and Nigeria.

Last but not least (and yes, out of order) … Q is for Quakes. This is another one that was relevant in 2014 and is already making some news headlines in this new year, with a quake right here in our own backyard on Jan. 3. Scientists agree that global earthquake rates are on the rise, with significantly higher numbers of quakes in 2014 compared with previous years. Scientists are not sure why the numbers are up globally but have pointed to connections between quakes and fracking in certain parts of the U.S.

Looking back at my A-Z series in general, I see many news highlights from 2014 that will most likely be prominent this year, as well. Perhaps it is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. What do you think?

Personally, I’m hoping for positive changes in the new year. I am hoping to see communities work toward increased equality and justice for all.

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

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