This has been a momentous year with bitter political battles and real concern over the direction of the country. And while we continue to struggle through the worst recession in a decade, I believe that even at this time we have many reasons to give thanks.
The push for healthcare reform has sparked vigorous public debate. While there can be concerns over the tenor of the debate, I believe that it has sparked a renewed civic interest. At no other time in my public service have so many people come to me and discussed legislation in such great detail.
I frequently talk to constituents who point to a specific page and paragraph and ask what affect it will have on their healthcare. The public availability of legislation and the ease of access through the Internet have allowed more citizens than ever to engage in the debate at a high level of discourse. I believe that we should be profoundly thankful for our democratic system of government and a constitution that protects our right to freely express opinions.
Personally, I am thankful that residents of the 16th District are reaching out to let me know their thoughts about legislation. Just this year, I've received more than 57,000 letters, e-mails and phone calls. That's 20,000 more communications than in 2008. There has also been great turnout at townhalls and meetings held in the district. Such strong civic engagement helps me to better represent you in Congress.
In reference to healthcare, while I believe we need reform, I also believe that we should be profoundly thankful for medical professionals who are working hard to keep our nation healthy. In this past year, I've had the opportunity to personally meet with many doctors, nurses and administrators across the 16th District. They truly care for their patients and they want to be able to have the freedom to provide the medical services their patients need.
Doctors and nurses work long, stressful hours at medical practices, hospitals and nursing homes. We don't always take the time to thank them for their hard work and for entering a profession that has so much responsibility.
But we have much more to be thankful for, just last week we observed Veterans Day and we honored those who have served in our armed forces. We should certainly be grateful for those who wore the uniform and fought to protect our nation.
At this moment we have soldiers engaged in battles to protect us from the threat of terrorism. Our armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are undertaking the difficult task of stabilizing those nations and engaging terrorists who are looking for opportunities to attack the United States. They are far from their families and they are risking their lives on a daily basis. If you have the opportunity, please take the time to personally thank someone who is serving in the armed forces.
Additionally, we should be thankful for a new generation of young people who want to serve our nation. The 16th District deadline for service academy nominations recently passed and this year my office saw a 30 percent increase in the number of applications. Though we are at war, more young men and women than ever are interested in leading our armed forces.
There are many more gifts from God for which we can be thankful. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 16th Congressional District. I hope that everyone has blessed Thanksgiving and that it is time of both reflection and joy.