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Oppenheim: 2016

I’m 56 years old, and things are more settled than they used to be. Looking back at my life and career now, there were stretches of turmoil when something, either professional or personal, was rocky.

These days, it’s a lot better, and at the year’s end, I try to take stock of both the big things, and the little stuff. I walk to work. I’m a teacher and love what I do. I moved to Vermont a couple ago and feel connected to family. In so many ways, I’m grateful.

But 2016 was also a year when both joys and fears sat side-by-side. It wasn’t all easy.

I saw people in my life battle addiction, making me aware of what recovery really means. Someone close to me lost her job in a devastating way, reminding me of how, too often, the world is unfair. I spent time with people in hospice care, making me think more deeply about the end of life and loss.

Then there was the election, which left me stunned and anxious about the years ahead, when I’m concerned that civil rights, environmental protection and social justice will erode. While the past 8 years were far from perfect, I valued Obama’s cool head in an unstable world. Now I’m worried about our President-elect’s impulsiveness.

So - how to make sense of this moment, when I feel good in one way and bad in another?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I am listening to an inner voice that’s telling me 2017 won’t go so well if I just sit and fret. At a time when I sense trouble ahead, I want to make a difference and speak up.

The other day, I got a call from my nephew who was organizing a protest against President-Elect Trump’s picks for the Environmental Protection Agency. He wanted some strategies for getting media attention – and ended up learning something about how to amplify his voice.

His actions put things in focus for me. Yes, I’m hopeful the next year will bring me personal satisfaction. But if 2016 taught me anything, it’s that my joys and fears are stuck with each other. And I have to live with the mix.

So if I sense something in our politics is seriously wrong, I’ll do everything I can to make a contribution, which includes amplifying my voice.

Keith Oppenheim, Associate Professor in Broadcast Media Production at Champlain College, has been with the college since 2014. Prior to that, he coordinated the broadcasting program at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan (near Grand Rapids). Keith was a correspondent for CNN for 11 years and worked as a television news reporter in Providence, Scranton, Sacramento and Detroit. He produces documentaries, and his latest project, Noyana - Singing at the end of life, tells the story of a Vermont choir that sings to hospice patients.
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