Headlines of 2005: Year in Review

Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Clarence Page takes a look back at the stories that made an impact on him this year.

TONY COX, host:

Another year has come and gone, and as we turn the page on 2005, commentator Clarence Page takes stock of the past year and wonders what the rest of the decade will bring.

CLARENCE PAGE:

The end of 2005 means the decade is almost over and we still don't have a name for it yet. We had the '80s, the '90s and then what? The zeros? The O's? The naughts? For some of this past year's news makers, the naughty naughts sound pretty appropriate. The White House and Congress saw so many indictments and subpoenas this year that Washington almost saw the impossible: a shortage of defense attorneys. The biggest story to me was in Iraq. This year saw the longest mop-up action in history continue on long after that famous banner behind President Bush declared `mission accomplished.'

But this year also brought us the shortest war in history, the war on poverty that President Bush announced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. By the end of the year, Congress had gone back to trimming social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and child support enforcement. Poverty wins again.

It was a year for intelligent design to make headlines as an attractive way for some people to explain what science and evolution have yet to explain about creation. It also raised more questions, like if there really were an intelligent designer, why do we still have wars and hurricanes?

This also was the year when intelligent scientists announced what they called a white gene, the tiny genetic source of the white race sometime in the last 50,000 years, after early humanity migrated out of Africa. Most intriguing, scientists say the white gene was a single mutation among three billion genetic letters in the human genome. I guess we humans have a lot in common after all.

There was other happy news in 2005. It was the year Morgan Freeman won the Oscar for best supporting actor in "Million Dollar Baby" after having been nominated for three other movies. Fourth time's the charm, Brother Morgan.

And there was sad news, too: turning the page on some history-making leaders and talents like Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Ossie Davis, Johnnie Cochran, Luther Vandross, Richard Pryor and August Wilson. And there was Kenneth Clark, Brock Peters, Nipsey Russell, C. Delores Tucker, Bobby Short, Constance Baker Motley and the great blues man Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

We lost the Chicago publisher who became a spiritual mentor for many of us journalists, John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet and other great media creations. Some advice he left us will always stick with me: `If you want to succeed in your professional life,' he said, `make yourself indispensable.'

That's a good New Year's resolution. It might help this naughty decade come out nicer.

COX: Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist with the Chicago Tribune.

And if you'd like to hear a hip-hop review of the last year, check out our Web site at npr.org, where we have a year-end wrap-up from hip-hop artist Napoleon.

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