This was the title of a Simon & Garfunkel song, in which they mixed a news broadcast from 1968 over a hauntingly beautiful version of “Silent Night.” I’ve been playing it a lot recently.

Even for a glass-half-full guy, this year has offered a lot of sobering news. I look back on the shootings at Parkland, Pittsburgh, and Thousand Oaks that bookended the year and think how deep rooted and intractable some of our public safety problems appear to be. I recall with wonder and frustration the simple mistakes made yet again, such as the disempowered camera operator in D.C., the bungled weather evacuation in Oklahoma, the chaotic management of a panicky crowd in New York. And so much more.

It would be fitting to remix the old song with a reading of news accounts of the hot mess that was 2018.

And yet, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful, at least about the prospects for safer live events in the future.

Last month’s Event Safety Summit was not only our best attended, with more sessions and more attendee interaction than before — the faces at Rock Lititz show that the Event Safety Alliance is reaching younger and more diverse professionals than ever. I am excited to build on that momentum as we launch ESA’s new podcast in January, open our online merch store on our shiny new web site, and submit our first-of-its-kind Crowd Management ANSI standard up the chain for approval, all of which are part of ESA’s 2019 campaign to provide more opportunities to engage with the mission of prioritizing life safety first at venues and events.

January also brings a fresh group of wide-eyed law students to my Spring semester “Risk Management in Venues” seminar at Arizona State University. As much as I enjoy demystifying basic legal principles for non-lawyers, it remains immensely satisfying to help students learn to think like (good) lawyers for the first time.

And since I firmly believe in the power to engage people and inspire change through public speaking (and I learn more by talking with people than by sitting in my office), I will soon be spreading the gospel of safety at a venue near you. Here is my current presentation schedule:

Jan. 7, American Meteorological Society, Phoenix, AZ
Jan. 18, Tourlink, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 24-25, NAMM, Anaheim, CA
Feb. 7, International Festivals and Events Association webinar
Feb. 14, American Pyrotechnic Association, Las Vegas, NV
Mar. 7, Actsafe, Burnaby, BC
Mar. 20-21, U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology, Louisville, KY

I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful holiday and a safe and happy new year.