By James Middlebrook

2017 has been a heated year, but the world is not on fire. Although news often portrays the alarms blaring, the flame raging, the world on the brink of annihilation- the United States has seen another successful year of progress. We’ve made progress in national security, foreign policy interests, economic development, and scientific discovery.  This progress has ensured that America continues to be the safest and most advanced nation on Earth.

Arguably, the greatest advances in security came as ISIS lost vast territory in the middle east. In December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State. This came after American, Western, and Iraqi coalition forces battled for more than three years to regain control over the nearly one-third of the country that had been under ISIS domain. There is still more work to do in 2018 to combat the extremists, but the reclamation of territory is a great success in the fight against terror.

Our foreign policy interests were advanced in September with the passage of additional sanctions against North Korea through the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Through UN resolutions, the United States created useful leverage against the Kim regime. Utilizing economic pressure, tough sanctions on oil imports and textile exports are aimed at driving North Korea to the bargaining table. As tensions escalate with North Korea, we are still trying to advance American interests through peaceful diplomacy.

While the economy has loomed large in American’s minds since the 2008 recession, 2017 has seen record highs in the stock market and the lowest unemployment rate in nearly two decades. The state of the American economy looks strong and is trending upward going into 2018. Many experts believe our greatest asset to American security is a healthy and growing economy. A vibrant economy allows our nation to spend generously on defense and technology. A strong economy gives America the resources it needs to be the world leader. In 2017, by growing our economy we improved our position in the world.

The American pioneer spirit continues to thrive in the 21st century as we have made great discoveries in science and technology over the past year. President Trump reconvened the National Space Council to spearhead efforts to get Americans to Mars and to return us to the Moon.  Also in 2017, three American physicists were awarded Nobel Prizes for their work in observing the first gravitational waves. A new era in astronomy was ushered in by the discovery of gravitational waves—or ripples in the fabric of space and time—a phenomenon predicted to exist over a century ago by Albert Einstein. By observing these ripples caused by massive collisions of black holes or neutron stars, they have proved the existence of space-time once and for all.

The world is a chaotic, ever changing landscape with adversaries and allies fighting for their own interests. Through the lens of chaos, it’s easy to perceive America is in decline when it’s actually not. But in 2017, at a time when technology can deliver us the news in near real-time, from across the world, we are able to see the real stories through the noise that surrounds us. It’s important to keep optimistic and remember the progress America has made in the past year. In 2018, we will continue to lead the world and advance American values, because the nation is not on fire and America is thriving.