10 Moments That Made 2012 Great

From Obama's debates to a Spike Lee joint, these achievements made this year memorable.

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President Obama at the third presidential debate (Pool/Getty Images News);
Spike Lee (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

(The Root) -- It is true that I am by disposition too often a glass-half-empty kind of person. So, with some discipline, I cling to the habit of ending each year by making a list of at least 10 things to be thankful for as a partial antidote to pessimism. From this point of view, 2012 was not a bad year at all.

First, musical creativity, especially in the world of jazz, continues to enrich us all. So many different pieces could be praised, but this year I am in real rapture with jazz pianist Robert Glasper's Black Radio. The CD is a marvelously creative blend of jazz, rap and soul genres. From the sweet, intoxicating rhythms of "Afro-Blue," with Erykah Badu's lilting voice setting the tone, to the sizzling, rap-infused track "Always Shine," with Lupe Fiasco and Bilal, and the transcendently funky and soulful version of Sade's "Cherish the Day" by Lalah Hathaway, you know black radio will live on.

Item No. 2 two on my list is actually Texas Gov. Rick Perry. At one level I feel we all owe him a debt of gratitude for establishing the rule of gender parity: There is a male politician as ridiculous as Sarah Palin. Beyond this, his flameout during the course of the Republican primary season gives some real measure of hope that the Republican Party can be saved from the worst depths of right-wing excess.

Coming in at No. 3 for me is Spike Lee's Bad 25 documentary on the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's Bad album. If you have not seen this documentary and are in any measure a Jackson fan, you just must get it. And if you are a Jackson hater, you need to see this even more. Few films can capture music and a great musician's creative process. This film gives us as full and powerful an evocation of who Jackson was and why he still reigns, globally, as one the most amazing entertainers of all time as any I can imagine.

Jackson's ambition, his humanity, his warmth, his humor, his constant seeking for inspiration, emotion and perfection in his music just leaps out of every frame. And there are few film segments as powerful as the brief section in which Lee interviews his many collaborators, asking each of them to comment on Jackson's untimely death. It will stop your heart. Michael Jackson, I will always believe, was misunderstood and unduly stigmatized in life. Spike Lee deserves big kudos for starting to seriously set the record straight. Thank you, Spike!

Items four, five and six all come from the world of electoral politics. In order they are: Bill Clinton's absolutely masterful speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention; Barack Obama throwing down when it mattered most in presidential debates two and three; and the American people, especially that grand, multiracial coalition of progressive whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians who re-elected the first African-American president of these United States.

I turn to the world of sports for items seven, eight and nine on my list. For No. 7 I am thankful that Augusta National Golf Course named Condoleeza Rice as one of the first two women admitted for membership. This iconic bastion of white and male privilege, and site of the annual PGA "The Masters" golf tournament, now very fittingly features a little more color in its ranks.

At No. 8 I have LeBron James. Although I am not generally a LeBron fan, I must say I was pleased that he finally and convincingly rose to the challenge of winning an NBA championship. The embarrassment of "the decision" is finally behind him (and all of us). Bravo.

For No. 9 I am thankful for Robert Griffin III. RGIII proves that young, highly successful African-American athletes can, from the beginning, be poised leaders, neither caricatures of adulthood (e.g., Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson, TO née Terrell Owens) nor hopeless thugs (e.g., Ndamukong Suh) and tragedies waiting to happen (e.g., Jovan Belcher).

Lastly, I want to turn to the media and elite discourse in our culture. No. 10 on my list of things to be thankful for is Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show. She is a remarkable breath of fresh perspectives, different voices and many hues on the stage of national civic discourse. If you have seen eruption against giving tax breaks to millionaire "risk takers" versus the day-to-day risks of living in poverty in America you must find it on YouTube. Political discussion on television can never be plain vanilla again. Thank you, Melissa!

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