Like many Americans, I am already weary in this long campaign season of the posturing of our nation’s politicians, wondering if any of them truly put our nation’s best interests ahead of their own. A recent trip to Africa curbed my frustrations with the campaigns, and I came home in this season of gratitude reminded that Thanksgiving is more than a holiday.
The purpose of my trip was to participate in an event held in Johannesburg, South Africa, for healthcare technology management (HTM) experts representing their professional societies in 15 African countries. The GE Foundation, through a British charitable organization THET (Tropical Health and Education Trust), hosted the gathering, the purpose of which was to: 1) learn what it will take for professional HTM societies in Africa to become strong and vibrant; and 2) help these leaders connect with and learn from one another.
A summary of the lessons learned at the event will be included in the December issue of AAMI News. What I want to share in this blog post are more personal insights about my newly refreshed gratitude for living in the United States. As I listened to the HTM experts talk about their challenges, some of which relate to stark political and societal realities in low-resource countries, I saw our own country in a new perspective.
I thought of a quote that’s attributed to Boris Yeltsin, but it’s a sentiment that millions of other people have expressed in various ways: “We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Freedom is like that. It’s like air. When you have it, you don’t notice it.”
In the United States, we may not like what we read or hear in the news, but our choices are endless in finding journalism that informs, educates, offers different perspectives, challenges, and uncovers the dirt.
We also may not like our politicians, but we are lucky that they are bound by our Constitution, court decisions, and other checks and balances that protect them and us from absolutist power or the chaos of leadership coups.
We may disagree about gun control, but we have no need to fear genocide or other human atrocities.
We have the freedom to decide what to believe and how to practice those beliefs—religious, philosophical, cultural, and otherwise.
Most of us have access to bountiful food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, and decent jobs that pay fair wages. I met a lovely business owner who has not traveled to the United States but is convinced from friends and family (and television) that we eat, serve, and waste gargantuan quantities of food. I was embarrassed to have to agree with her, and could understand her inability to comprehend why this would be so. Her perspective served as a reminder of how much we take our bounty for granted.
This year for Thanksgiving, I am expanding my gratitude beyond the love of family and friends to include renewed thanks to our Founding Fathers for giving us freedoms and establishing a government with checks and balances that protect us from the instability that plagues many other nations. And, I won’t take for granted the bounty on the Thanksgiving table or the freedom and stability in our collective lives that make these celebrations possible. Our Thanksgiving is much more than an annual holiday: it’s an important reminder about all that is good about living in the United States.
Mary Logan, JD, CAE, is president and CEO of AAMI.