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(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin has been thinking about the year just ending, and the year ahead.

(KUNIN) I’m about to take down the 2004 calendar and put up its successor, 2005.

No doubt about it, 2004 was a hard year. For about half of us, we not only were a blue state, we felt blue for days after the election. For most of us, the war in Iraq is an ongoing tragedy, with no end in sight. For the thousands upon thousands in south and southeast Asia, the tsunami that swept their lives away in one sudden giant wave was the ultimate disaster.

And then, we each have our private lists: friends gone, quiet griefs and disappointments. And yet, if we look hard enough, there is some good news tucked behind the bad.

Look at Ukraine. Democracy is not dead; it’s alive, thanks to the thousands of people, young and old, who demonstrated night after night through dark December in snow, wind and rain, waving their orange banners in Independence Square, so apty named. No injuries, no fatalities – just passion. They demanded honest elections; they put themselves fully on the line, body and soul. And they won. A new election was granted, and the good guy won. Victor Yuchenko told the roaring crowd, “It has happened. Today we are turning a page of lies, censorship and violence…to lay a new epoch of a new great democracy.”

There is the glimmer of hope that shone in the final months of 2004 for a renewed activity for peace in the middle east with the death of Yasser Arafat. On the inside pages of The New York Times a headline reads, “Tiny Collective of Jews Agrees to leave Gaza Under Plan,” indicating that there may be hope after all for the removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza.

And in Vermont, we can take pride in Howard Dean’s candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Yes, he didn’t make it, but he succeeded in going further than anybody thought he would at the outset, and he continues to be a voice for change at the national level.

And then, in our personal lives, good things happened. A student got an A for a first-rate paper. A new baby expected in the family, new friends, holidays with children and grandchildren gathered around the table, happy to be together.

Two thousand and four wasn’t that bad after all. But I confess I have great expectations for 2005, fully believing that tacking up the new calendar on the wall will bring better days and greater joy.

Happy New Year to you all.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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