The happiest things that happened in the news over the last decade

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News travels fast in our modern world, with major stories only becoming a minor blip in the fast-paced news cycle. It's easy to forget what happened only a few months ago, let alone what took place in the last decade. The 2010s were turbulent in some ways, but those years also saw so many heartwarming headlines. Here are 40 of the happiest stories that happened in the last decade.

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2010: Chilean miners rescued

At the very beginning of the decade, more than 1 billion viewers around the world were glued to their TVs, watching the rescue mission of 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,000 feet underground. After a ramp inside the mine collapsed in August, the workers were trapped inside for 69 days. Food and water sent through a narrow pathway was able to sustain the miners until rescue efforts were able to safely drill a tunnel and send down a capsule to bring every miner safely to the surface one by one.

Alex Ibanez via Abaca Press/MCT

2010: Warren Buffet and Bill Gates' giving pledge

In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, worth $88.5 billion, and Warren Buffett, worth $74.2 billion, founded the Giving Pledge, a commitment by wealthy individuals to give away at least half of their money to philanthropic causes. As of 2019, there are now 204 pledgers from 23 countries, including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, George Lucas and Mackenzie Bezos. In total, they've pledged to donate more than $500 billion of their wealth.

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2010: 'It gets better'

In 2010, columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, founded the nonprofit It Gets Better in response to a wave of teens across the country committing suicide because they were or were perceived to be gay. Savage and Miller released a YouTube video encouraging LGBT teens. This sparked other gay public figures and LGBT allies to post their own videos, including Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres and more, creating the "It Gets Better" movement. The project won a special award at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards and inspired a New York Times bestselling book.

Gregory Urquiaga/Contra Costa Times/TNS

2010: 250th DNA exoneration

The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989 with Gary Dotson, who had been falsely convicted of rape and aggravated kidnapping in 1979. DNA became more pivotal through the '90s, with the FBI introducing its national DNA database. The complete mapping of the human genome in the 2000s made genetic evidence and testing more thorough, so that by the beginning of the 2010s, the U.S. saw its 250th DNA exoneration when a man named Freddie Peacock was exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project. In the last decade, DNA has continued to improve the accuracy of forensic science and America's criminal justice system.

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2011: Last US soldier leaves Iraq

After nearly nine years of war, U.S. troops fully withdrew from Iraq. The Iraq War, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, cost over 4,000 American lives, and at its peak, there were more than 170,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq in November 2007.

Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT

2011: South Sudan gains independence

In July 2011, South Sudan officially gained independence from Sudan, fulfilling the 2005 peace agreement between the countries and ending Africa's longest-running civil war. Sudan had been warring since 1955 when it broke away from joint British and Egyptian rule. The conflict cost more than 2 million lives and displaced more than 4 million people, creating the third-largest refugee crisis in the world. South Sudan was Africa's first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993 and has since faced many struggles as a new nation.

Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times/MCT

2011: Gabrielle Giffords walks into House chamber following shooting

During an appearance at an Arizona shopping center in January 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head before the shooter opened fire on the crowd, killing six people, including a federal judge, one of Giffords' staffers and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords, then 40, survived. After months of rehabilitation, she was able to return to the House floor, and her colleagues greeted her with multiple standing ovations.

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2011: Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding

Arguably the wedding of the decade, Prince William, second in line to the British throne, married Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London. One million people lined the processional route between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace after the ceremony. More than 23 million Americans watched on live TV, while 72 million people in 188 countries watched a live stream of the nuptials on YouTube. William and Kate have brought the English monarchy back in popularity, with the world also paying close attention to the birth of their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The wedding of William's younger brother Harry and American Meghan Markle was also a worldwide sensation, as was the birth of their son Archie in 2019.

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2012: Michael Phelps becomes most decorated Olympian ever

During the 2012 Olympic Games hosted in London, American swimmer Michael Phelps won the 18th and 19th Olympic medals of his career, becoming the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina held the previous record of 18 since 1964. Phelps further cemented his legacy by winning six medals in total in London, and then six more medals in Rio in 2016, bringing his total to 28 medals before he announced his second retirement. That's more medals than 161 countries.

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2012: Mars Rover lands

In 2011, NASA launched its Mars rover, Curiosity, and eight months later, on Aug. 6, 2012,  it successfully reached the surface of the red planet after traveling 352 million miles. Initially intended as a two-year mission, the car-sized rover has stayed on Mars indefinitely, sending back reports on Martian climate and geology. The rover went on to make amazing discoveries, including finding evidence that there was once flowing water on Mars and that at some point in the planet's past, it could have supported life.

Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/MCT

2012: Botched fresco in Zaragoza, Spain, becomes tourist attraction

One of the most iconic images of the decade is the botched fresco of Jesus Christ from the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain. The fresco was ruined by a well-meaning woman in her 80s who attempted to restore the prized 100-year-old artwork. This resulted in what was deemed by many as an artistic monstrosity, earning it nicknames like "Monkey Christ." This was a blessing in disguise, however,. The notorious fresco brought more than 150,000 tourists to the area in the following years, earning tens of thousands of dollars for local charities and for the well-meaning artist Cecilia Giménez, who is given a portion of the proceeds for her handiwork.

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2013: San Francisco transformed into Gotham City for Batkid

In one of the biggest and most elaborate Make-a-Wish projects ever, volunteers helped turn the city of San Francisco into Gotham City for a 5-year-old leukemia patient named Miles. To fulfill his dream of becoming Batman, the mayor, the police department and even the San Francisco Giants joined in, staging fights with the Riddler and the Penguin and giving "Batkid" a ride in his very own Batmobile. This day-long celebration warmed hearts around the world, and donations to Make-a-Wish poured in. Miles is now 11, and his leukemia is in remission.

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2013: Pope Francis elected new pope

Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican elected Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the new pope, making him the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas and the first pope from outside Europe. Bergoglio chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assissi.

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2013: 64-year-old completes a Florida-to-Cuba swim

In 2013, swimmer Diana Nyad became the first person to swim 110 miles from Havana to Key West through shark-infested waters without the use of a shark cage for protection. She completed this record-making swim in approximately 53 hours and at the age of 64. An endurance swimmer in the '70s, Nyad attempted this swim once in 1978 but failed before retiring from the sport. Three decades later, she came out of retirement and attempted the swim three more times before successfully managing it in 2013.

Cammy Clark/Miami Herald/MCT

2013: The pay it forward trend catches on

While the idea of "paying it forward," repaying a kindness one has received to others, isn't anything new, multiple heartwarming "pay it forward" chains happened in 2013. For example, at a donut shop in Massachusetts, 55 consecutive customers in the drive-thru paid for the order of the person behind them. The chain only broke when there were no more people in line at the drive-thru. A pay-it-forward chain began on the morning of Christmas Eve at a Connecticut Starbucks that lasted three days straight with more than 1,000 customers keeping it going.

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2013: Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' spawns viral videos

The 2010s saw many viral video and dance trends like the "Harlem Shake," but perhaps the happiest of these trends was dancing along to Pharrell Williams' smash hit "Happy" from the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack. At the end of 2013, Pharrell released an interactive, 24-hour music video for "Happy," in which the singer as well as dancers and celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Steve Carell lip-synch to Williams' song over the course of a day in Los Angeles. This inspired people all over the world to film their own versions, showing off their city, neighborhood, campus or workplace. Today, the four-minute version of the "Happy" music video has more than 1 billion views on YouTube.

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2014: Malala Yousafzai wins Nobel Peace Prize

In 2012, then-14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban members. For years, Malala had documented how she and her community suffered under rule by Taliban militants for the BBC's Urdu service, including decrying their ban on girls' education. Her increasing influence made her a target. But Malala survived the attack, and it became the incident that pushed her and her message of female education onto the international stage. Two years later, she won the Nobel Peace Prize and became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate.

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2014: ALS ice bucket challenge raises millions

In 2014, Anthony Senerchia, a man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, inspired a social media challenge in which participants dumped a bucket of cold water on their heads and then nominated other people to join in and donate money to ALS research. About 17 million people uploaded videos of themselves doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and the ALS Association received more than $115 million in donations that year. These funds helped researchers discover five new genes connected to ALS.

Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/MCT

2014: Cuba frees American Alan Gross

The strained relationship between Cuba and the United States became tenser in 2009 when the Communist country arrested and later sentenced United States government contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in jail for distributing equipment without a proper permit. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama was able to negotiate his release as part of a historic move to restore diplomatic and economic ties that had been cut from the island nation since 1961.

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2014: Jobs jobs jobs

The U.S. economy added over 2.6 million jobs. It was the best annual job growth since 1999.

 

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2015: 'Sesame Street' introduces Julia

For the first time in a decade, beloved children's show "Sesame Street" introduced a new character to the neighborhood: Julia, a muppet who has autism. The show worked with educators, child psychologists and autism organizations to properly portray the character in an effort to help normalize autism for young children. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in 59 American children has autism spectrum disorder. "Sesame Street" also cast Stacey Gordon, whose son has autism, as Julia's puppeteer.

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2015: Llamas gone wild

It was probably a normal day in Sun City, Arizona. That is until two llamas got loose and went rogue. For about half an hour the led local authorities on a wild llama chase. This probably would have gone unnoticed in days before the internet, maybe a paragraph write up in the "national" section of the newspaper, but thanks to video streaming their was a live feed of the whole chase which delighted viewers across the country.

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2015: 195 countries adopt the Paris Agreement

In 2015, almost 200 countries around the world joined together in the first truly global commitment to combat the current climate crisis. Representatives from 195 countries and the European Union signed on to the international treaty, named for the city in which it was created, as part of a consensus that the world needs to reduce the emission of gases that contribute to global warming.

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2015: Amy Poehler changes red carpets with #SmartGirlsAsk

Actress Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker co-founded the organization Smart Girls. It made waves in 2015 when Smart Girls joined forces with the Television Academy to source questions from viewers to the celebrities on the red carpet beyond, "Who are you wearing?" Fans on social media as well as Shonda Rhimes, Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush and other figures sent in interesting, thought-provoking questions for the female nominees to answer, such as "Who inspires you and why?" This made for a memorable and inspiring red carpet for many viewers.

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2016: Harriet Tubman replaces Andrew Jackson on the $20

As part of an effort to put a woman on paper currency, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that African-American activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill. The plan was to change the bills as early as 2020 to mark the centennial of women's suffrage, but the plans have stalled.

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2016: Chicago Cubs win the World Series

Sports stories can captivate the nation, and one of the biggest of the decade was the Chicago Cubs baseball team breaking its 100-year curse to finally win the World Series for the first time. The Cubs' epic sports drought was steeped in legend, including the curse of the billy goat, incurred when Wrigley Field refused entry to a man and his goat. After other curses and strings of bad luck, the perpetual underdogs were finally able to come out on top, beating the Cleveland Indians in Game 7.

Rob Tringali/MLB via Getty Images

2016: Giant pandas removed from the endangered species list

In 2016, the giant panda was downgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's global list of species at risk of extinction. The panda is the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund as well as one of the national symbols of China.

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2016: India plants 50 million trees in a single day

In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 800,000 volunteers planted almost 50 million trees in 24 hours. This world-record-breaking environmental effort was organized to help combat deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A year later, the state went on another tree-planting spree, breaking its own record with 1.5 million volunteers planting more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours. In 2019, they outdid themselves again, planting 220 million trees in one day, one for every person living in Uttar Pradesh.

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2016: The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens

The idea for a national African-American museum was first proposed by black veterans of the Civil War way back in 1915. More than 100 years later, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C. Part of the Smithsonian Institute, the museum stands on the National Mall near the Washington Monument and houses more than 35,000 artifacts. The museum welcomed nearly 3 million visitors in its first year.

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2017: April the giraffe finally gives birth

In February 2017, Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, began a live stream of its pregnant giraffe, April. She became a viral sensation and people around the world kept checking in for weeks toward the end of her 16-month pregnancy. After the park announced she had officially gone into labor on April 15, more than 1.2 million people tuned in to watch April give birth to a male calf who weighed 130 pounds and stood 5 feet, 9 inches tall at birth. He was given the name Tajiri, meaning "hope" in Swahili.

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2017: 'Wonder Woman' proves women can carry a superhero blockbuster

"Wonder Woman" notched multiple Hollywood milestones upon its successful release in 2017. It was the first female-led superhero film in more than a decade despite a steady string of male-led superhero movies. It was also the first superhero movie directed by a woman, with director Patty Jenkins becoming just the second female director to make a movie with a budget of more than $100 million. "Wonder Woman" received positive reviews and earned more than $821 million at the worldwide box office, paving the way for "Captain Marvel" and other female-driven blockbusters.

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2017: The world didn't end

Two groups incorrectly predicted the end of days in September 2017. The 23rd was pegged as the beginning of the end for the Earth and while the Christian group who actually believed in the prophecy were not large, the theories spread far and wide, prompting everything from YouTube videos to Washington Post stories on the topic. However, the sun still rose on September 24.

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2017: Country captivated by historic solar eclipse

In August 2017, millions of Americans made sure to witness the "Great American Eclipse," the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. since 1918. Viewers within the path of totality, which spanned 14 states coast to coast, were plunged into the darkness and could see a full solar eclipse, while elsewhere in the country it was a partial eclipse. This celestial event was also the first of the modern era, meaning it could be captured with advanced photography and video cameras as well as smartphones. Others marked the occasion by proposing after the eclipse and even holding their weddings during the eclipse.

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2018: Soccer players rescued from Tham Luang cave

In June 2018, 12 boys and their youth soccer coach went exploring the twisting Tham Luang cave, the fourth biggest cave system in Thailand. Though familiar with the cave, the group wasn't expecting flash flooding from monsoon rains, which trapped them inside. The trapped boys made international headlines, and soon rescue specialists and cave divers from around the world traveled to Thailand to help the Thai Navy Seals and other rescuers explore the flooded caves to find them. After a harrowing extraction process, all 13 missing people made it back to the surface.

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2018: South and North Korea play on same Olympic hockey team

The separate countries of North Korea and South Korea, which have been divided for more than 70 years, competed as one "Korea" for the first time during the 2018 Winter Games hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. When South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, North Korea boycotted. But three decades later, the teams walked under the unified flag at the opening ceremony. More than 20 athletes traveled south to the games to compete in individual events for North Korea. But in women's ice hockey, North and South Korean athletes competed side by side on the same team for the first time. The unified team had to overcome issues in communication, style of play and more to compete in front of sold-out crowds eager to be part of a historic moment.

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2018: Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle

Prince Harry exchanged vows with American television actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel and then sped off in a 1968 silver blue Jaguar to the reception. It was a star-studded event with everyone from tennis star Serena Williams to actor George Clooney to the Queen of England (obviously) in attendance. It was also a worldwide sensation, as was the birth of their son Archie in 2019.

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2018: Iraqi voters hold first election since driving out Islamic State

2018 marked a major landmark in Iraq, where parliamentary elections were held for the first time since the fall of the Islamic State (ISIS). The country last held elections in 2014 before being plunged into a four-year war with ISIS that displaced millions and did more than $45 billion in damage to Iraq's buildings and infrastructure.

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2019: Most diverse class of lawmakers in history sworn into Congress

In January 2019, a new class of lawmakers was sworn into the 116th Congress, making it the most diverse class in history in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and generations. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, with Rep. Omar becoming the first member of Congress to wear a hijab. Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids became the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at age 29.

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2019: Taiwan becomes the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage

On May 24, 2019, Taiwan passed a same-sex marriage bill, making it the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage. Thousands of supporters celebrated outside the parliament building in Taipei after the vote, and 500 same-sex couples registered their marriages on the day the new law went into effect. More than 2,000 couples have since gotten married across the island.

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2019: Billionaire pays off student debt of graduating class

During his commencement speech in May, private equity billionaire Robert F. Smith promised to pay off all the student loans of the students and parents of the Class of 2019 at Morehouse College, one of America's historically black colleges and universities. In September, he followed through, donating $34 million and changing the lives of nearly 400 graduates amid the nation's student debt crisis. You may not have the means to donate $34 million yourself, but maybe a visit to these beautiful college campuses will spark your own small good deed.

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