These are difficult times. It’d be foolish to pretend otherwise.
National politics seem dreadfully cliquish with neither side willing to compromise and both treating government like blood sport.
Science tells us the world climate is moving closer to irreversible disaster that — if left unaddressed — will wipe out species, drive massive human migration and alter life as we know it.
There are wars and disasters and much to despair.
But today we give thanks.
We give thanks for democracy, which, despite our own nation’s divides, remains resilient. Elsewhere it is more widespread than you might imagine. More than half the world’s governments are free.
We give thanks for the power and reach of education. Over the past 65 years, the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years — from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.
We give thanks for the worldwide rise in the standard of living. “Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history,” Jim Yong Kim, former World Bank Group president said in 2018. An end of extreme poverty is possible as soon as 2030.
And we give thanks for the human ability to solve enormous problems. Global climate change and all those other challenges are frightening, but so were the plague, smallpox and polio. We went to the moon and created machines that can do once insolvable mathematics in the blink of an eye.
Thanksgiving, the American secular and religious celebration of our mutual blessings, has historic roots in one of our nation’s darkest hours, the Civil War.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln noted that, despite the horror of our nation’s deadliest war, we still had much for which to be thankful, including bountiful harvests, growing industry and a growing nation.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people,” he wrote in his official proclamation.
The contemporary challenges are great, but so are our resources ... and our obligation to join solemnly, reverently and gratefully in thanks.