By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 11/24/2006
This page is usually replete with grandiloquence designed to stimulate thought and dialogue. However, there are times when the usual ideological themes employed here are best set aside in order to simply reflect.
Thanksgiving is a natural time to reflect on the blessings we enjoy as a people, as a nation, and as a community. The challenges and vicissitudes of life are such that we seldom take the time necessary to contemplate the incredible fortunes that have fallen to us.
Our great country was conceived by the Declaration of Independence which proclaims that life and liberty are the inalienable gifts of God - natural rights - which no person or government can rightfully take away, and affirms that these are indeed God-given rights, not bestowed by man or governments. It affirms that the purpose of government is to secure our God-given inalienable individual rights, and that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. Our Declaration reduced government from master to servant for the first time in history.
Our United States of America is not perfect. No temporal entity operated by man can be, yet the principles upon which this country is founded are divine in nature, and the resulting government by and for the people, the best on earth.
The American people are the most giving people in history. When there are calamities, conflicts, and just causes, Americans are there either as volunteers or part of a government assistance program. As Alexis de Tocqueville said, "America is great because America is good."
We must always be grateful to our men and women in uniform who vigilantly ensure our liberties, freedom, and security on a daily basis. I am reminded of a list of truisms that declare: it is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble. It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote. Without their service, what we know as America would not be, and we would conceivably all be speaking German.
Politics aside, we should be grateful for a President who has taken the primary threat of the 21st century seriously, and has done all within his power to protect and preserve our country. Islamo-fascism and terrorism are serious threats that can’t be simply negotiated away, and the President has utilized all the tools at his disposal to protect America from them. Who would have thought that after 9/11 we would go five years without an attack on our homeland? I certainly didn’t.
Idaho is a magnificent place to live and to raise a family. Tucked away in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, Idaho affords an environment that is relatively unaffected by many of the evils and social scourges that modern society contends with. We can walk to the park, walk downtown, perambulate around our neighborhoods mostly without the fears and apprehensions associated with urban milieus. And here in Pocatello we’re literally within minutes of magnificent forests with clean, flowing streams, lush vegetation, and indigenous wildlife.
With the prevailing value system, Pocatello is a perfect place to raise a family. My late friend, John Savage, when he retired, could have chosen anyplace in the world to retire, but through a process of elimination, chose Pocatello in part because of the aforementioned reasons, and loved it here. And for those without family, Pocatello is small enough we can claim one another as brothers and sisters.
When viewed philosophically, gratitude and thankful hearts require a degree of humility. The world doesn’t owe us anything, but in humility, we are thankful for what we do have and what freedoms and privileges are ours. We’re not entitled to have a good job, or a car or the host of temporal blessings that are ours, but we’re grateful for them and we express our gratitude to those who make it possible. We’re not entitled to have someone hold the door for us at a store, but we’re thankful for those who do, and we express it to them.
And ultimately, since all blessings are bestowed by God, we express our deepest gratitude to him for our country, our state, our families, and the temporal blessings that are ours to enjoy.
It is proper for us, indeed, requisite of us, to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all.
Of all people in the history of mankind, we have most to be grateful for. We should manifest that gratitude in our treatment of one another, with courtesy, kindness, and respect.