Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2008

As America celebrates Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. I’ve always enjoyed the holiday because it brings families and friends together, and oftentimes even strangers are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong.

For nine years I lived in Dallas, Texas and it became a custom that I spent Thanksgivings, Christmas Eve, and Christmas with the Perez and Tristan families. Since my parents and sisters were back in Michigan and my grandfather would fly off to spend the holiday with my Aunt DeeAnn and her family and he was often gone over several Christmases as well, I enjoyed spending these times with the Perez and Tristan families. Both families made me feel very welcome. I worked with Raul and Francisco (Francis for short) and we attended the University of North Texas together and we became friends, while Francisco and Raul had been friends since kindergarten. I had always thought that it was really great how both families had welcomed me.

The Tristan family had a tradition that that Mrs. Tristan and daughters would make pounds and pounds of tamales and I really enjoyed them (every now and again when I’m in a Mexican restaurant I’ll look to see if they have tamales and if think about ordering some and think of the homemade tamales of the Tristan family). They also had a big get together on Christmas Eve. Francisco has a few brothers and a couple of sisters and add in his nieces and nephews and it was often a pretty large get together. Francis has been a very good friend over the years and we asked him to be the godfather of our oldest daughter, he and his wife flew out to Germany to be at the baptism and I have so many great memories of all the years that I have know him and his family.

I often tie those three holidays together and think of them as one, but I did start writing about Thanksgiving (didn’t I?) Thanksgivings I usually spent with the Perez family during my Dallas years. Raul was the middle son and had one sister and a niece and a nephew. There was usually a nice turkey and many of the Thanksgiving dishes that many of us know and love. During those years I saw little Jena her brother Marty grow. Before I left Dallas, I saw both of Raul’s brothers get married and I even flew back to Dallas after moving away to be at his sister’s wedding.

Since moving to Germany seven years ago, it has been more of a challenge to celebrate Thanksgiving. First of all, the day that the American Thanksgiving is celebrated is not a national holiday in Germany, so to have the day off requires making arrangements to take the day off (which I have done several times, but it didn’t work out this year). You don’t usually find turkeys over here like you do in the U.S., so one time a friend of ours was able to arrange that we got a turkey from some Americans they knew that had access to a PX. One year we celebrated with another American from Michigan and her then boyfriend (now husband). Another year we went to visit some friends that were living in the U.K. at the time. This was even more memorable because it was my first Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. and we drove through the tunnel between Calais and Dover, commonly referred to as “the Chunnel” since it goes under the English Channel. My mother had passed away that September and dad had flown over to see us so it was all that more memorable.

I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving. I’ve also enjoyed how it brings people together and that while you do tend to think about things that you’re thankful for, you don’t need to be of any particular Christian denomination, so the holidays tends to unite people and drive them apart. So I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe remember some of your more memorable ones.

Photo credit: "Thanksgiving Turkey, white background" courtesy of davidlat

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Obama's Election

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Ms USA" courtesy of weirdvis

Much will be written and much has already been written about Senator Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States because of the enormity of the event, I hope that you’ll indulge me and give me my moment. Going back nearly two years ago (has this campaign only been two years? it has seemed so much longer), we’ve seen so many things in this election that we hadn’t see at anytime in recent history (and some things that we haven't seen before) that we knew things would be different. Some Obama supporters would say it was destiny, but when you look at the tickets that were offered by both major parties, this was going to be a historic election regardless of who won, there would have been a woman as vice president, had McCain/Palin won and there is now a president elect who has African-American ancestry.

I have to say that I have become part of that group of voters that both major campaigns were chasing after. I have become disillusioned with both major parties and felt that both parties seemed to represent big business and special interests more than my fellow Americans; that Republican or Democrat, neither seemed to be moving the country in the right direction. So often, although the two major parties’ candidates might seem worlds apart on some “hot button issues” (or whatever issues the strategists decided to focus on) the results most recently have often not really been a choice at all. Dan Carlin often refers to the choice between Democrat and Republican as being Hertz and Avis; that both parties are really the same. Having seen the 2000 presidential election end up in the Supreme Court and further legal debates about the 2004 election; one party try to impeach a president for lying about an extra-marital affair, while some of its key members weren’t exactly squeaky clean; one president that was labeled Conservative has presided over one of the biggest expansions of government and deficit spending that has surely displeased many “Conservatives”; and the state of California impeached a governor because he was “unpopular” not that he had committed a crime or some act that impeachment was truly designed for. It seems that there is so much effort spent on getting power and once you get power to try to change the rules to keep the other guys out, that neither of the two major parties seemed able to tackle the difficult issues that needed to be solved. These events don’t even go back to the Vietnam War and Watergate! It is absolutely amazing to me that we had the Energy Crisis in the seventies and we didn’t seem to learn our lesson. I guess that you could say that I’ve become cynical of American politics.

I watched the election coverage on November 4th (already November 5th where I was in Germany) with anticipation. I was flipping back and forth occasionally between CNN, C-NBC Europe, and Sky and keeping an eye on how many votes had been projected by each network. Almost immediately after the polls closed in California, CNN was projecting Senator Obama to be the President Elect. I watched the huge crowd that had assembled in Chicago awaiting the newly elected president. You could see the excitement in the peoples’ faces that they were so happy that Senator Obama had won. The faces of the people weren't just of people happy that their candidate had one, but more being overwhelmed in a historic moment, that they now had a sense of hope that maybe never existed for many of them before. Reverent Jessie Jackson was fighting back the tears, you have to wonder what he was thinking as the Senator from Illinois spoke. As I was listening to Senator Obama’s speech I was thinking that this speech will be remembered for generations like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In American politics there has often been one candidate that broke the ground for future candidates. There was a time when America would not have elected a Catholic as president for fear that the president would listen to the Pope above the needs of the country, but Al Smith ran and many years later a Catholic Kennedy from Massachusetts was elected. There was a time when a divorced man could not have been elected president, but when Ronald Regan ran in 1980, hardly anyone noticed that he was divorced. Reverend Jessie Jackson made a few attempts at the White House but didn’t get the nomination for the Democratic Party that he sought, but you can’t help but think that this helped to break some of those barriers down. Back in 1984 Geraldine Ferraro was the first women to run as a vice presidential candidate for either of the two major parties, certainly this helped pave the way for Senator Clinton to have the success that she had in her campaign, also it now wasn’t so odd when Senator McCain choose Governor Palin as his running mate.

Senator Obama said in his speech that this election victory wasn’t the change that they were seeking but a chance to make the change that so often had spoke of. Many people will say that an African American man being elected as an American president is a victory for the civil rights’ cause. Certainly this one election doesn’t end all the years of discrimination, hatred, and mistreatment but what a message it has to send out to people from all walks of life, that they to can aspire to be president one day or anything else that they put their minds to. In future elections, race and gender will likely play less and less of a role and we can hope that the quality of the candidates themselves and their positions on the issues will be more of the focus.

This election has been very long, partisan, negative, and has really torn people apart. I for one really disliked the “palling around with terrorists” remark that was made about Obama, which seemed to imply that he didn’t have America’s best interests at heart and couldn’t be trusted. A talk radio culture has sprung up that makes its’ living by tearing America apart and creating resentment and division between people. Dan Carlin touches on this division in his latest podcast “Permanent Division”. I have been annoyed for several years how the Conservative movement has been able to paint “Liberal” as a dirty word, chant “Tax and Spend” to scare people away from any candidate that wasn’t in the "Conservative" camp. Even when candidates are "moderate" or more center, someone is always trying to present them at "too liberal". In the closing days of the campaign, many Republicans were trying to paint Senator Obama as a “Socialist” and some have even gone onto to say that he had Communist or Marxist leanings. I read a nice editorial that claimed that Obama wasn’t a “Socialist”.

America’s image around the world has sunk quite a bit in the last eight years and there is a lot of mending that needs to take place. The way that we have conducted our "War on Terror" has really helped tarnish our image. Dan Carlin did a podcast about torture a while back that will make you think twice about some of the things that have been done in the name of keeping America safe. But all things considered, people around the world seem to have been hoping that Senator Obama would be elected, so that America could move away from much of what it has done in the last few years. As an American living outside of the U.S., I can see what public opinion outside of America has been and I’ve seen that people have been excited about the possibility of Senator Obama being elected. I watched Senator Obama’s speech in Berlin on television and you could see that the crowd was excited and there were a lot of people that went to see him make this speech. People as far away as Australia have written about the election of Senator Obama and even the SEO world seems to have learned something from him.

Senator Obama has inspired a lot of young people to vote and become involved. In several of the past elections there has been talk about young people getting involved and making a difference, but this time it did finally happen. Have the post Baby Boomers finally shed the chains of apathy and decided that they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to see what they could do? The Baby Boomers have talked a lot about changing the world, but much of the generation that was against authority became authority, and while some progress has been made in the Civil Rights area, many issues remain that need to be solved and worked on. Are the post Baby Boomers up for the task? Will they continue to shake off the apathy that they’ve previously accepted as the norm? Only time will tell, but it is encouraging none the less.

I really liked the part of Senator Obama’s speech where he talked about the 106 year old woman from Atlanta, Ann Nixon Cooper, and all she has seen in her life. As parents most of us want a better world for our kids and can relate to Senator Obama’s speech where he asked “if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?” Many of the problems and issues that we don’t tackle today only become harder and more expensive to tackle in the future and is if fair to burden our kids and grandkids with such things? That part of the speech is reminiscent of President Kennedy challenging America to put a man on the moon.

I find hope in the gracious concession speech that Senator McCain made. In the past there have been some really challenging elections and America was able to unite again after the votes were counted. In more recent years the differences and animosity has lingered past the elections. I do truly hope that our leaders will be able to put aside their partisan differences and work on the huge issues that we’re facing today. I hope that the country can come back together and that while we may disagree we don't have to be disagreeable, that the people will realize there isn't a need to hate those that are different from you. I have included Senator Obama’s speech from Chicago and Senator McCain’s concession speech below, so you can read through what they said, also you can watch videos of the two speeches from the two links provided.

Senator Obama’s Victory Speech from Chicago

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled --
Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics -- you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to -- it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington -- it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek -- it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -- in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world -- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down -- we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security -- we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright --tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America -- that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing -- Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Senator McCain’s Concession Speech

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.

My friends, we have -- we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama to congratulate him. To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Sen. Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought -- we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.

I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I'm especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate's family than on the candidate, and that's been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also -- I am also, of course, very thankful to Gov. Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I've ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength, her husband Todd and their five beautiful children for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.

To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.

I don't know -- I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I'll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I'm sure I made my share of them. But I won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Sen. Obama and my old friend Sen. Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.

I would not -- I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

Tonight -- tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama -- whether they supported me or Sen. Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

I hope that you have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to subscribe to this blog and check out my Systems-Overload blog. Feel free to add your comments but please refrain from vulgar and obscene comments, a healthy discussion is welcome.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Blogged with the Flock Browser