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Lessons From an Age of Progress

Despite how disordered the world feels in 2017, the potential for renewed progress at any given moment is greater than most people think possible. With committed political leadership and innovations in science and business, the world can replicate the unprecedented gains in global health and development made between 2000 and 2015.

WASHINGTON, DC – Imagine that you are a committed internationalist during a tumultuous period in global politics, and you are now grappling with the outcome of a nail-bitingly close US presidential election. The winner is a Republican who ran partly on a message of foreign-policy retrenchment, against a Democrat who represented continuity with the outgoing administration.

Now imagine that the incoming administration collaborates with other countries to help save 25 million lives over the next 15 years. Until this last part, the scenario probably felt all too current for many readers, a large number of whom are still adjusting to the reality of Donald Trump’s presidency. But this is also how many people felt back in 2001, when George W. Bush beat Al Gore, following an extraordinary Supreme Court decision that ended the vote recount in Florida.

There are certainly limits to any comparison between then and now; but it is worth noting that much of the world seemed mired in chaos in the early 2000s, too. Many regions were beset by economic crisis, and political protests met world leaders whenever they gathered. The United States government’s policy toward the Middle East was squarely at odds with that of the United Nations, and violent extremism was on the rise.

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