A Canadian Tribute to the US Thanksgiving

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Two years ago, I came out of retirement to take a temporary assignment in southern California. This meant moving to Ventura from British Columbia for the better part of a year. I happened to be there for the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving in America is a much bigger deal than it is above the 49th parallel. The days surrounding the holiday are the most travelled of the year. Families and friends come together to give thanks. Strangers wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Americans believe no one should be alone on this important day. I’m certain that’s the reason my wife and I were invited to Thanksgiving dinner by people we barely knew.

On reflection of this nation’s celebration, I came to realize that Thanksgiving epitomizes America the Good. You see kindness in the people. That’s not to say they are always civilized to one another, especially in political debate as witnessed in the months leading up to the election; right and left wing positions are as hardened as ever. Yet, apart from an insatiable race for the almighty buck, an infatuation with celebrities, and a few other vices I need not mention, American values are admirable.

Any student of history will tell you that every great nation crumbles when it succumbs to complacency – when its leaders and its citizens forget that “privilege” does not mean “right.”

This brings me to the tattered flag that hung in shame from my neighbor’s California beach house. Not only on the homeland, but throughout the world the Stars & Stripes has stood for American ideals such as liberty, happiness and equality for all. The red, white and blue rag that I saw blowing in the wind every day was an outrage. Yet, I could not avoid the tattered rag’s symbolism – that of a once great nation, now burdened by debt, unemployment, homelessness, and divisiveness. Any student of history will tell you that every great nation crumbles when it succumbs to complacency – when its leaders and its citizens forget that “privilege” does not mean “right.” As with most things in life, the harder you work for a privilege, the more you appreciate it.

Like a troubled company swimming in red ink, America has its work cut out for it. Politicians say they have the “will” but they seldom show the “way.” Maybe it is time to return to those old fashioned values, the ones that built this remarkable country in the first place – what harm could come from hard work, personal sacrifice and acceptance of responsibility? I’ve got a hunch bringing these values back into the family unit might be a heck of a good start for our friends south of the line.

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Image credit: kwasny221 / 123RF Stock Photo

John Bell is the author of Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World. A retired consumer packaged goods CEO and global strategy consultant to some of the world's most respected blue-chip organizations, his periodic musings on strategy, leadership, and branding appear in various journals including Fortune and Forbes. John has served as a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. He can be reached at his blog http://www.ceoafterlife.com/

  • John Bennett

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, John, for all the right reasons – many of which you noted during your temporary employment. With regard to the troubles the US finds itself mostly avoiding, I wish I could be optimistic we’d as a country return to those values; but I really don’t! As with alcoholism or drug habits, I’m not sure enough people have reached the bottom yet. The politicians are content blaming everything on the other party, are so much in bed with each of their lobbyists that they cannot conceive of alternatives to the suggested mandates and policies of those lobbyists, and thus have absolutely no intention of talking with each other!!!

    Frankly, I believe the path to recovery must start with local discussion communities for understanding and choice of approaches, followed for a search for candidates willing to align with those approaches. Having elections with short campaign periods funded by the federal government totally would really help – as would term limits.

    In spite of my pessimism, I will enjoy tomorrow with friends and family – after which I will continue to see that local discussion I believe to be so important!!!

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