By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
There are many things for which I am thankful: my wife, my friends and my health are certainly at the top of any list.
I am thankful that this publication, as it begins its fifth year. I pray it has done some good.
I am also thankful that you are reading these words. It humbles me to think that I have anything to say, that is worthy of your time.
To hold government accountable, to demand that it fulfill its potential without stepping on the individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to me the purpose of political journalism. That I am allowed by the grace God to do this work gives me cause for great thanksgiving.
Our Nation, as much as anything, is founded on the power of the pen, to communicate who we are and what we will become.
Our Nation is inextricably linked to the energy of words, conceived from ideas which have built a country of good, honest and thankful people.
We have not always lived up to those ideals, but if we continue to believe in them, and act on them, they will endure and prevail.
The origins of our Thanksgiving celebration date back to the 1621 Autumn harvest feast shared between Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians. For the next two centuries, Thanksgiving observances were held throughout the nation, only becoming an official holiday in 1863, during the War Between the States, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be commemorated each November.
Some scholars doubt the Plymouth feast was actually the first Thanksgiving celebration, and that’s okay. It is either a myth or a fact, but when the myth becomes legend we generally treat it as fact. That is a very human thing, and a very American one as well.
We believe in lots of myths, as individuals, and as a Nation, and that is not a bad thing.
Our Nation was founded, not on who we were, but on who we wanted to be. The Declaration of Independence is our Mission Statement, and the Constitution keeps us from going astray.
The greatness of our Nation has always rested on our ideals, not always on our actions. Winston Churchill observed, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.”
The America of the Founding Fathers was a blank slate on which they etched the idea of a noble people, still knowing we would do terrible harm.
They gave us something to live up to because people need vision. Ours has always been one of greatest. The scriptures teach us, “where the people lack vision they perish.”
Thomas Jefferson set the standard by which we would view ourselves, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These principles in our society have always been a work in progress. Equality. Liberty. These are the bedrock desires of the human soul, and they are also the very things that the evil among us will try to steal and deny a fellow human. We, as a Nation, have a long history of that as well.
We have never been as good as we have believed and never as bad as others have painted us.
Jefferson wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
Too often, we are mired in a past that never existed, while failing to grasp the importance of building our futures on solid ground.
So, it is today, we are all perhaps thankful for different things, hopefully we are all thankful for a nation founded on the promise of tomorrow not the fears and failings of the past.
Every day offers the promise of renewal, and I try to keep the vision of what can be, ever before me.