The last Thursday of November is a special day, devoted to family and fellowship in recognition of the serendipity of life. Each of us was set on a path to travel during our existence in this reality. Some have been blessed with advantages of birth and circumstance while others may not be as fortunate. However, in this country, opportunity still exists to circumvent class distinctions.
This unique ability to ascend (or descend) through ability, will and determination is not without challenge. It is constantly under threat, as a rearguard action, by some who have achieved wealth, power and status; an attempt to bar any who would follow and possibly dilute their influence. So far, the steady influx of fresh, fertile minds and ingenuity by those with an innate drive to succeed in personal, social, political and societal endeavors has provided an equal, if not overwhelming force to rejuvenate our society. No small part of this energy comes from those who choose to emigrate from elsewhere. They not only add to the intrinsic talent of our population, but act as a multiplier, creating strength through natural synergy, defined as a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Recognition of the role that family, friends and fellowship play in the miraculous scenario of this societal weave is what makes our national day of Thanksgiving so special. Beginning with George Washington in 1789, who issued a proclamation of “a day of public thanks-giving” and finally declared a national holiday on October 3, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this is the day to reflect and come together as a united people. Even as political, social and economic events twist and threaten to tear the fabric of our nation, there are moments to rejoice in the basic premise of our country. This is one of those moments to reset and contemplate the dual focus of the single word.
Many of us are lucky enough to be born in this country and participate effortlessly in the experiment that Abraham Lincoln eloquently defended in the Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Today’s environment is, in many ways, similar to Lincoln’s time – one of overt warfare and bloodshed. The battlefield of Gettysburg was littered with the bodies of those who fervently believed in a cause that threatened to tear our county apart. Following years of torment and strife, an uneasy peace was achieved that, to this day, stains our heritage and discourse. For all its flaws, hopefully, a sense of common purpose still pervades beyond local, state and regional borders.
With a blended ancestral heritage, this country with all its defects has succeeded beyond many reasonable expectations. Along with the successes, come monumental failures… such are the vagaries of life. On this day set aside for national thanksgiving, it may be at least one moment when we can all appreciate the personal, professional and civic legacy of our brief existence. How we manage this precious gift is up to each of us.