A legendary game show host retired, an unpopular leader stepped down from power, and the Democrats regained majority of the House of Representatives. The year of 2007 boasted both stories of triumph and tragedy.
The political firestorm swirled at the beginning of 2007 when Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) became the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4. Not only was a woman leading an group of white, male representatives, but Congress also held its first Democratic-majority session since 1994.
On the other side of the political spectrum, it did not take President George W. Bush long to announce his plans for the year, calling for a troop surge of at least 21,500 people to be sent to Iraq. Bush appeared on “60 Minutes” and said as commander in chief of the armed forces, he has the authority to order troops to Iraq, even in the face of congressional opposition.
“In this situation, I do, yeah. I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it, but I made my decision and we’re going forward,” he said.
He also said Iraqis should be thankful for all the United States has done for them since the war began nearly four years ago.
Tony Blair announced his resignation from his 10-year role as Britain’s prime minister in May. Bush praised Blair as “a man who’s kept his word, which sometimes is rare in the political circles I run in.”
The alliance of Bush and Blair had angered many Britons who overwhelmingly do not support the war in Iraq, which increased Blair’s unpopularity.
Blair was not the only one to retire last year. Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” stepped down after 35 years of hosting, and Drew Carey took his place on the popular game show on Oct. 15.
Despite the impact Barker’s departure had on viewers and television, it was nothing compared to a handful of tragic incidents that took place across the country.
On April 16, a shooter opened fire on the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg, Va., killing 32 people and wounding many more before he committed suicide. The event marked the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Shooter Seung-Hui Cho was able to obtain a gun even though he was declared mentally ill and had at least one professor ask him to seek counseling. The incident caused federal lawmakers to look at the issue of strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, since immediate changes occurred in Virginia law that had allowed the shooter to buy handguns.
Another disaster happened Aug. 1, when the Mississippi River Bridge collapsed during evening rush hour, throwing cars into the river and onto its banks.
In 2005, the bridge was deemed “structurally deficient” and in need of possible replacement, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory database. Thirteen people died and approximately 100 more were injured because the bridge was not replaced.
Track star and Olympian Marion Jones formally pled guilty to having taken steroids before the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics on Oct. 5. Her plea to federal investigators came during the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) steroid scandal in the U.S. District Court.
This resulted in Jones accepting a two-year suspension from track and field competition, and announcing her retirement from the sport. Her suspension also required her to give up her medals, results, points and prizes.
Barry Bonds, also part of the BALCO scandal, had been under investigation since 2003. He was indicted Nov. 15 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges due to his alleged lying under oath about his steroid use.
California was also the site of two natural disasters in 2007, as declared by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The state’s natural environment was tarnished when the wildfires hit the southern part of the state in late October and early November. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than one million people were evacuated and 1,600 homes and businesses were destroyed.
Wildlife around the San Francisco Bay area was threatened Nov. 7 after 58,000 gallons of oil spilled from a South Korea-bound container ship when it struck a tower supporting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in dense fog. Scientists say it could take years for the bay’s natural habitat and sea life to recover.
Another top story of the year was the Writers Guild of America strike by east and west chapters that began Nov. 5. The last strike from the guild occurred in 1988 and lasted 22 weeks, leaving the entertainment industry with a loss of an estimated $500 million. As of December, major primetime shows were on hold until negotiations could be reached, and film scheduling was affected as well.