Let me finish the year with this: I said 2012 was the year of two steps forward, one step backward. A reasonable judgment about America in 2012 is that we are a more diverse people than some imagined. We are a country more tolerant of our diversity than I imagined.
Was it a good year for America? My answer's yes. As a country, we backed the rights of women and we increasingly backed those of gay people. We voted, as a people, who believe not just in life and liberty, but the pursuit of happiness. From a distance of 236 years, we were very loyal to the opening words of the Declaration of Independence.
I never believed President Barack Obama had a second term in the bag. The night of his first debate with Governor Romney, I thought he was on his way out of town, but he wasn't. His vice president out-battled his rival; the president himself came back to show he was not a man to be taken down twice. Most important, he got some breaks: the Supreme Court upheld health care, the jobless rate dropped below 8%, Mitt Romney showed himself a man at home with his fellow rich out on a limb when trying to be someone he isn't—a right-wing simpleton.
And so we look forward to a new year, a new second administration of a significantly progressive president. America isn't a hard right country—intolerant and resentful of its new countrymen and women; it is on balance a centrist country with progressive leanings, one that has now rejected a reversion to the policies it holds responsible for the country's current difficulties. It likes its president, it roots for his success, and it believes strongly that America will win again because of its deep resilience. We can change, we are changing, and when we see failure, when we see horror, we aren't afraid to change.
There's an old line in the movies that may be my favorite: "I learned that people only truly pay attention to what they discover for themselves."
In the morning hours of Newtown, Connecticut, in the horror of 20 young faces, we learned what must be done because we saw what was being done to our children and grandchildren if we didn't. We gave up cigarettes which gave us pleasure because we discovered the damage they can do because we saw the horror they can do. We should be able to give up semi-automatic rifles.