From the inauguration of Donald Trump to the first total solar eclipse to traverse the Lower 48 in nearly a century, 2017 was a year for the history books. Here we review the biggest news in politics, culture and science this year.
Trump’s inauguration: After a divisive election season, Donald Trump officially became the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. In a 16-minute inaugural address (the shortest since Jimmy Carter‘s in 1977), Trump repeated his “America First” campaign slogan in which he delivered a dark-toned nationalist, populist message.
The slogan “America First” has its origins in the America First Committee, a group founded in 1940 to oppose U.S. involvement in World War II that was often characterized by its anti-Semitic, pro-fascist rhetoric.
In his address, Trump embraced the legacy of Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president, and the first to win on an “anti-establishment” populist platform.
Tough talk on immigration: Shortly after taking office in January, President Trump sought to make good on his “America First” campaign promise by imposing a series of contentious travel bans on citizens from several Muslim-majority nations.
Federal district courts struck down implementation of the bans, though a Supreme Court ruling in December 2017 reversed the lower courts’ decisions, allowing the administration to fully implement the bans.
Trump also continued to promote his election campaign idea of a border wall with Mexico that he says will help quell illegal immigration from Mexico and points south.
Russia’s election meddling: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported in January 2017 that the Russian government had ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In March, FBI director James Comey announced that the FBI was investigating election hacks and links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the head of the United States Department of Justice, recused himself from any investigation into the President’s campaign amid questions over his contact with the Russian ambassador in 2016.
President Trump fired Comey in May, making Comey just the second FBI director ever to be dismissed by the President. (The first was William S. Sessions, who was fired by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after being accused of tax evasion.)
Later in May, the FBI announced a special counsel, led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, to investigate any coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Fights over Obamacare: Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate sparred over whether to repeal President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.
The GOP, in control of both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, made it a legislative priority to dismantle the healthcare bill, yet a series of Republican plans to repeal and replace the legislation ultimately failed.
Rohingya refugee crisis: In late August, Myanmar stepped up attacks against the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, in what a United Nations commissioner called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” As a result, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, leading to a humanitarian crisis in that country.
North Korean missile launch: North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan in August, stepping up tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. North Korean state media said the launch was a prelude to more military actions aimed at the U.S. territory of Guam, a small island in the Western Pacific home to two U.S. military bases.
U.S.-backed forces take Raqqa: After a four-month fight, the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa fell to a U.S.-backed coalition of Syrian forces, ending three years of ISIS control in the Syrian city. The defeat carried symbolic weight as the second major loss of territory for the Islamic State in three months. In July, ISIS troops were pushed out of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
Women’s rights: In January, the Women’s March on Washington, which advocated for policies regarding women’s rights and other issues, became one of the largest single-day demonstrations in U.S. history.
The Washington Post estimated that more than 5 million people may have attended 653 marches in U.S. cities, rivaling participation in the Vietnam War Moratorium Days of 1969 and 1970.
Later, women of the #MeToo movement, a social media campaign to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault, would be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, after helping take down a number of pop culture’s most powerful men.
Super Bowl comeback: The New England Patriots mounted the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime after trailing by 25 points in the third quarter.
NFL anthem protests: During the 2017 football season, several National Football League players remained kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest of racial bias, violence and profiling by police forces around the country. President Trump attacked the players on Twitter, sparking a further wave of protest by NFL players.
Snapchat IPO: In one of the biggest and most highly anticipated U.S. market debuts in recent years, the image messaging service Snapchat began trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange in March. After the IPO, Snapchat stocks rose from $17 to $27 in its first two days of trading, before falling 30 percent in subsequent weeks.
“Fake” news: In September, Facebook announced that they had shut down nearly 500 fake “troll” accounts and pages created by Russian company the Internet Research Agency. The Russian company, linked to the Kremlin, purchased more than 3,000 divisive ads on hot-button social issues during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Confederate monuments fall: White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Army commander Robert E. Lee. One woman was killed and many more injured while protesting the white nationalist rally.
In the wake of Charlottesville, monuments of Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and other confederate figures were removed from public spaces around the country.
Las Vegas shooting: On October 1, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Paddock killed 58 people and wounded more than 500. News outlets called it the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history. The shooting reignited debate about gun control and Second Amendment rights.
Health, Science and Environment
Opioid epidemic: Public health officials announced that drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, with more than two-thirds of those deaths coming from opioid painkillers. President Trump declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency” in October.
Artificial intelligence: Facebook’s artificial intelligence (AI) research program announced over the summer that its “chatbots” not only developed their own language, but also figured out a way to deceive the humans. This prompted a social media scuffle between tech billionaire Elon Musk and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over the potential dangers of AI.
Pipeline protests squelched: Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump signed orders clearing the way for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. The move was an effort to expand U.S. energy infrastructure and rollback Obama-era environmental regulations.
Paris climate agreement: The Trump administration delivered official notice in August that the United States would stop participating in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Paris Agreement, which was negotiated by 196 countries in 2015, details the steps each country will take to respond to the threat of global climate change.
Syria announced in November that it would join the landmark pact, leaving the United States the planet’s lone holdout.
Record-setting hurricane season: The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which included 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, may go down as the costliest hurricane season ever. In the United States alone, hurricanes caused more than $2 billion in 2017.
In August, Hurricane Harvey slammed the Gulf Coast of Texas, dropping more than 50 inches of rain on Houston. A few weeks later, Hurricane Irma, which destroyed more than 95 percent of the buildings on the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda before steamrolling the Florida Keys, became the most intense hurricane to make U.S. landfall since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late September, leaving large swaths of the U.S. commonwealth without electricity for months.
Wildfires across the globe: In the western United States, Canada and Alaska, wildfires scorched millions of acres in a devastating wildfire season (only 2015 had worse wildfires). Fires also raged across Chile, South Africa, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and—somewhat ironically—Greenland, where peat and permafrost are drying out because of climate change.
Solar eclipse: On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse crossed the United States from coast to coast, the first total solar eclipse to do so since 1918. The next total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. mainland will take place in 2024.
The wild inauguration of Andrew Jackson, Trump’s populist predecessor; The New York Times.
A short history of ‘America First’; The Atlantic.
Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers; Time.
This is what we learned counting the women’s marches; Washington Post.
The U.S. is now the only country not part of the Paris climate agreement after Syria signs on; USA Today.
The most expensive U.S. hurricane season ever: By the numbers; Bloomberg.
This is how much of the world is currently on fire. Popular Science.
A ‘Massive’ Wildfire Is Now Blazing In Greenland. NPR.
How much did climate change affect California’s wildfires? Depends on where you are. Vox Media.
Darker and more dangerous: High Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council on human rights issues in 40 countries. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.