The Gratitude Imperative

Thanksgiving is a time of special reflection for me and my family. As I wrote a few years ago, I flew into Forward Operating Base Caldwell in Diyala Province, Iraq, to begin my deployment with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment on Thanksgiving morning, 2007. That very same day my youngest daughter was born in southern Ethiopia. (We didn’t know she was born that day; we learned only later, when we received her adoption papers.) Thanksgiving is when we celebrate new life, and it’s a time when I remember and reflect on my most challenging year—a time of loss and pain. 

Tuesday I listened to my colleague Jonah Goldberg discuss gratitude with AEI’s Yuval Levin on Jonah’s Remnant podcast, and I was struck once again by the need to be grateful for our American experience. In Iraq, I saw a nation fractured—a culture torn apart by hate and violence. My immigrant, adopted daughter entered a nation still marked by prosperity and freedom. And—as Jonah and Yuval note in the pod—neither that prosperity nor that freedom was inevitable. 

The dominant tone of public discourse today isn’t gratitude, but rather anger and lamentation. Yes, there are grounds for political rage, and with deaths of despair (among other problems) continuing to plague our land, there are reasons for lamentation. But if we can pause to reflect on the things that have gotten better in my adult lifetime, we can be optimistic about improving what’s plaguing us. Let’s be grateful for the good and thankful for the many millions of people who’ve played their own crucial roles in preserving life, restoring liberty, and healing families. 

So, what am I thankful for? Here goes … 

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