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Be Thankful for Our Country This Thanksgiving

11/18/2015

Judge Gerald A. Williams
North Valley Justice of the Peace

As I was listening to this year’s Veterans’ Day event in Anthem, I could not help but scan the crowd and be impressed by the genuine commitment to service by those in attendance. Some people hope to be able to commit themselves to a cause greater than themselves. Most of those assembled actually had. There is good reason to be impressed and to be thankful.   

Thanksgiving is certainly a time to give thanks. If you are living in the United States, then you immediately have many things to be thankful for. Among these is the United States itself.

The phrase “American Exceptionalism” has been misused as of late. People who believe in American Exceptionalism don’t necessarily believe that U.S. citizens are somehow better than the rest of the people in the world. The truth is we are not.

Instead, American Exceptionalism means that our country was founded on an exceptional set of ideas, that were documented in our Constitution. There are many good and even some great countries around the world; but they are not based on an idea.

Daniel Webster, who served as a U.S. Senator before the Civil War, once wrote, “Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”   

On October 20, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November specifically as a day of thanks. He wrote that it would be, “a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.” He also recommended that Americans “offer up penitent and fervent prayers” to God “for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union and harmony throughout the land.” 

Those words still apply today. Even so, our government, perhaps especially on the federal level, remains far from perfect. This is almost by design. But while there may be some issues with some people in certain positions, there is nothing wrong with our actual system. Our Constitutional form of government, when followed, works.    

If you have an opportunity to sit and to reflect this Thanksgiving season, one of the things you should be thankful for is that, probably by accident of birth, that you are an American. Many blessings flow from that simple status.      

Judge Williams is the justice of the peace for the North Valley Justice Court. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.