Each year as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I like to take the opportunity to thank the editor of this paper, and share with its readers my reflections on the meaning of this very special American holiday.
Observing the increased interest in “dreamers” resulting from the debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the date that caught my attention this year was the 100th anniversary of the birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a president not only remembered as an exceptional leader, but also as a visionary and dreamer. He is one who inspired a generation to dream of making a better world by serving their country. In his inaugural address, he said: “Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty. This much we pledge and more … And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
This year as we give thanks, might I suggest we are a nation of dreamers and visionaries who have sacrificed their lives and treasure to better the lives of people throughout the world.
Martin Luther King, another American visionary, spoke eloquently in 1963 of his dreams for America.
“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers,” King said.
However, their dreams of a new and better world do not always come true.
Regrettably, there are a number of anniversaries that were noted in 2017 that highlight the failures of great visions and suggest to some that dreams may be only wishful thinking by idealists out of touch with a very imperfect world.
Such anniversaries in 2017 included:
• The 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution and the overthrow of the dictatorship of the Czar. Yet what evolved after that was far worse.
• The 100th anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I and 26 years later the 75th remembrance of the Bataan Death March in WWII.
• Canada’s 150-year celebration of its independence from England, but unfortunately as in the United States, there is still much unfinished business with regard to its Native Americans.
• And finally in 2017, the ending of the dream of every American boy or girl to run away from home and join the circus, “The Greatest Show On Earth,” with the closing of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus.
However, just because the dream is not realized in the way visioned, does not support a belief that these are fantasies and should not discourage one from articulating a better world. Rather, it should be the catalyst to rededicate oneself to its realization. You see, it is not just about the vision, or even articulating it. The dreamer must be committed to lead the effort to achieve it.
We can be thankful this holiday when we sit down to eat our turkey that America is a nation of people with such leaders who will sacrifice to make it happen. Failure is not the end of innovation, but the inspiration and challenge to overcome it.
Some believe that America has lost its way, that it has seen better days, that is has forgotten the values and principles upon which it was founded, that the American Dream is dead. Nothing is further from the truth, and holidays in the month of November should remind us of that. The month begins with Veterans Day, which honors all those who have fought and died to keep that dream alive, and ends with Thanksgiving, which in the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 were to give thanks for this nation and “blessings of fruitful fields and beautiful skies.”
America is a nation that was born because its founders believed that there was a better way to govern themselves through a social contract stressing individual freedom. They fought a war of independence to make that dream a reality, and since then it has been kept alive through much adversity to include a civil war, two world wars, a depression, a cold war and now a war on terrorism.
However, in each case the American people and its leaders responded for our heritage to dream and to lead. That ought to be something to add to the list of the many blessings for which we give thanks as we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Douglas J. Murray is dean of academics and the chief academic officer at New Mexico Military Institute. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.