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The Most Inspiring Stories of 2011 -- PICTURES The Most Inspiring Stories of 2011 -- PICTURES

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The Most Inspiring Stories of 2011 -- PICTURES

December 5, 2011

During a year of economic hardship and legislative gridlock, inspirational moments may have seemed hard to come by. But among the doom and gloom, there have been remarkable stories of recovery, accomplishment and independence. Here’s a look at some of these stories:

PICTURES: Notable Deaths of 2011

Recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., returned to the House floor in August to cast a vote in favor of the debt-ceiling deal. It was one of many heartwarming milestones in her long recovery from the tragedy of Jan. 8, when a would-be assassin shot her in the head. Six people were killed and 13 were injured when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords has been released from the hospital and is continuing to recover at Kelly’s home near Houston.(AP Photo/ABC, Ida Mae Astute)

South Sudan Gains Independence On July 9, after a 22-year civil war between the northern and southern halves of Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan became a sovereign and independent state. "After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation," President Obama said recognizing the new nation. "Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible.(AP Photo/Andrew Burton)

Hill People Under 30: Young and Ambitious The economic recession officially ended two years ago, but young people in America are still struggling to find work. More than 17 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds who are looking for work can’t find a job, a rate that is close to a 30-year high. Despite the doom and gloom, young professionals have found one place with open positions: the Hill. National Journal’s latest "Hill People" issue profiles young staffers who have climbed to senior positions. More from National Journal: PICTURES: Hill Staffers Under 30 to Watch INFOGRAPHIC: Breaking Down the Ages of Top Hill Aides(Richard A. Bloom)


The Arab Spring Protests that started in Tunisia over unemployment and government repression quickly spread across other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In some countries, entrenched rulers were forced out amid a wave of rebellion; in others, civil strife persists. The collective outcry became known as the Arab Spring.(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Boehner’s Rise to the TopOhio Republican John Boehner was sworn in as the 53rd Speaker of the House on January 5. This ascension for the son of a Cincinnati-area bar owner is the direct result of his leading his party to victory over President Obama’s Democrats in November. But Boehner has said it is really the fulfillment of an American dream, dating from when he worked his way through college mopping floors and tending bar, to his years as a small-businessman, to his arrival in Congress in 1990."(Chet Susslin)

Faux Inspiring: Colbert Super PAC Is Formed On June 30, the Federal Election Commission voted to allow Stephen Colbert to create Colbert Super PAC. The FEC ruled that Comedy Central’s mock conservative pundit could use funds from his parent company, Viacom, to create advertisements for his independent-expenditure-only political action committee. Colbert promised on his show that his Super PAC would produce "irresponsible advertising" to compete with the ads being aired by actual campaign committees.(Chet Susslin)


Last Man in Space The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center Friday, July 8, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Atlantis is the 135th and final space shuttle launch for NASA for the foreseeable future. The Space Transportation System kicked off in 1981 when Columbia roared off of a launch pad in Florida.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Leroy Petry Receives the Medal of Honor Sgt. 1st Class Petry received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest commendation, on July 12. While serving in eastern Afghanistan in 2008, Petry hurled away a live militant grenade, saving the lives of the soldiers around him at the cost of his right hand. President Obama also presented former Marine Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor, making him the first living Marine to receive the award for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano and Henry Svehla, two heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War, were also recognized posthumously this year.(Charles Dharapak/AP)

Our Boys (And Girls) Come HomeThe return of troops from Afghanistan began in earnest this year, with President Obama promising 23,000 would return by the end of 2012.(AP Photo/LM Otero)


Game OverPresident Obama and Vice President Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. After 10 years of hunting for the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2011, bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces on May 2, 2011.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Women Making ChangeAfrica's first democratically elected female president, a Liberian campaigner against rape and a woman who stood up to Yemen's autocratic regime won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of the importance of women's rights in the spread of global peace. The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was split three ways between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (center), women's rights activist Leymah Gbowee (left) from the same African country and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen (right), the first Arab woman to win the prize.(AP Photo)

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