Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 28, 2019
By Sen. Dale Kooyenga
What is Thanksgiving?
It’s a great and uniquely American holiday, a time when we gather with our families and take a step back to think about what we are thankful for in our lives. And of course, enjoy a delicious feast made possible by the unparalleled prosperity we enjoy in America.
To you and your family, I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday. But for me, there’s more to Thanksgiving than a big meal and taking a moment to appreciate the good things in our lives. Being thankful—having gratitude—is not simply an act to perform on one select holiday. Gratitude is an attitude, one we should strive to embody all year long.
Gratitude is exactly the opposite of an attitude of entitlement. Gratitude helps us appreciate the tremendous blessings in our lives—material comfort, modern conveniences, the presence of our loved ones. In so many ways, every American is immeasurably better off than our ancestors were just a handful of generations ago.
Even the most well-off among us a few centuries ago did not have access to basics that we take for granted today, like life-saving medical treatments, sanitation, safe transportation, and information. Moms and dads did not wonder what the world would look like when their kids grew up because the world did not change much from one generation to the next. For thousands of years, progress moved at a painful crawl.
Today, on the other hand, most of us look forward to long, healthy and peaceful lives, own more cars in our lifetimes than people of the past owned pairs of shoes, and we hold all the information ever recorded in the palm of our hands. If you want ice for your drink, it’s in the freezer just a few steps away, a convenience out of reach for even kings and queens just a couple centuries ago.
We should be grateful for the economic miracle that transformed the way people live and made Americans the most prosperous people in world history, as well as for the generations who came before us who built it. We should also look beyond our borders and be grateful that world poverty has declined from 36% living in poverty in 1990 to 10% living in poverty in 2015. While there is still a lot of progress to make, the same economic miracle that transformed the U.S. is lifting people out of poverty around the world.
Freedom and free markets will one day eliminate extreme poverty.
Despite what CNN, Fox News or any other media source may tell you, the world is actually getting healthier and wealthier every year. In large part we can thank the democratic form of government and capitalism for this progress.
It really is very easy to take for granted the prosperity we enjoy and fall back into complaining about modern conveniences that are not convenient enough. However, this Thanksgiving, instead of bickering over politics or who burnt the turkey, talk about the power of an attitude of gratitude, all the good things modern life makes possible, and all the reasons those good things are here for us to enjoy.
Sen. Kooyenga is a Brookfield Republican representing Wisconsin’s 5th Senate District.