This year has been full of surprises. It provided us with plenty of heartache, as well as some extraordinary and heart-warming moments that brought smiles to our faces.
Here is a selection of some of the most uplifting moments of the year ― from Lin-Manuel Miranda delivering an inspiring speech, to Serena Williams winning Wimbledon, to a 6-year-old boy making his own soccer jersey.
President Barack Obama awarded Ellen DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in November. Obama praised DeGeneres’ historic bravery for putting her career in jeopardy by publicly coming out nearly two decades ago.
“Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together,” the president said.
In August at the Rio Olympics, Abbey D’Agostino of Team USA and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin reminded us what true Olympic spirit looks like. When the runners crashed together and fell down, they helped each other up and willed each other to finish the race.
Hillary Clinton made history in July, when she accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and became the first female candidate for a major political party.
“Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come," she said at the Democratic National Convention. "I’m happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. I’m happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone.”
In October, newly displaced Iraqis who fled from the city of Mosul were reunited with their relatives who had been living at a refugee camp for the previous two years. A United Nations officer reported that almost 9,000 people were internally displaced as a result of the Mosul military operation in Iraq. When home is lost, family is all that’s left.
Murtaza Ahmad, a 6-year-old boy from a rural Afghan village, became an internet sensation after he was photographed in a Lionel Messi jersey he had made for himself using a plastic bag. Messi sent Murtaza a signed jersey in February, with a little help from UNICEF.
"I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me," Murtaza said. Murtaza actually got to meet Messi before a game in Doha, Qatar, this month.
At the Rio Olympics, the world watched Simone Biles become the most decorated American gymnast of all time.
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she said after accepting her second gold medal at the games. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted his Tony Award in June with an emotional tribute to the 49 people who died at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“Senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day,” he said. “This show is proof that history remembers. We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer.”
Thanks to the tireless energy of protestors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, many of whom traveled from across the country, the Army Corps of Engineers announced the Dakota Access pipeline would not cross Lake Oahe. The victory reminded us all that protesting, organizing and direct action work.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908, outlasting Cleveland 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller in November. For Cubs fans, it was a fairytale come true.
Serena Williams beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber, winning the Wimbledon women’s singles final and tying the record for the most grand slams ever won by one player. After nailing down her victory with a forehand volley, Williams fell to the ground with euphoria. She then met her opponent with a warm embrace.