The year 2012 caught America in a fitful mood, buffeted by rancorous national elections, meteorological monsters, school gunfire, economic ups and downs, and the bitter legacies of race and terrorism.
But how Americans have responded, historians suggest, goes beyond understanding tragedies like the Trayvon Martin shooting or the US Supreme Court's ruling that struck down large parts of Arizona's tough immigration law.
From the wreckage of superstorm Sandy came outpourings of sympathy and healing. Americans searched for solutions to unemployment and a more tumultuous climate. And they asked new questions, such as about America's grip on the changing realities in the Middle East.
Among other things, the presidential campaign put a spotlight on young Americans, showing their strong participation in civic life. Those under age 29 made up 19 percent of the overall vote.
"For all the sort of media controversies and all of the tensions that get covered on the front pages, what any number of these [top stories] will show is that we are a country that is more diverse, inclusive, transparent, and that ultimately we are a nation that has to feel a good deal of hope and optimism about this next generation," says American University historian Leonard Steinhorn. "For every unfortunate and tragic Trayvon Martin case or Colorado shooting, you have a younger generation that is probably the least prejudiced, least bigoted, and most inclusive in our nation's history."
– Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer