Even in a year of severe drought, continued high unemployment, economic struggle, natural disaster, and a negative and divisive election, Americans have much to be thankful for.
Whether your side won or lost, all Americans can still feel pride and appreciation for a peaceful democratic system that remains a model for the world. Although many may have been inconvenienced by long lines or inefficient voting processes, no one had to risk his or her life to vote.
Foreign Policy magazine profiled a delegation of election officials from more than 60 nations who traveled to the United States to observe Americans voting on election day. An observer from Libya characterized our system as " an incredible system...built according to trust" while a Jordanian visitor marveled at "the confidence that's placed in the process." Others expressed amazement that ballots are entrusted to local, civilian poll workers and that our polling places are free from a police presence.
In just the past few months, tens of thousands of Syrians have been murdered fighting for the freedom to have a say in their government and their future. In China, Communist Party leaders have shut down streets and social media to prevent citizens from even expressing an opinion on the once-a-decade leadership transition in which they have no vote.
We don't even have to look at other countries to remember how fortunate we are. Starting with our very founding, our own history is replete with challenging periods in which we not only survived but triumphed. In 1775, with no army or navy, American colonists decided to take on the most powerful military force in the world -- and won. When the young nation's unity and very existence threatened to dissolve in 1787 under the inadequate Articles of Confederation, our first leaders locked themselves up in a hot Philadelphia room and by the end of the summer emerged with a Constitution that remains a beacon of hope and freedom to the world and the standard against which all other governments are measured.
Many more tests were to come. The Civil War claimed the lives of over 600,000 Americans but ultimately ensured "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Our existence was threatened again by a Great Depression that put 25 percent of Americans out of work and a World War that killed up to 60 million worldwide and cost more than a quarter of a million young American lives. The Greatest Generation answered the challenge, and we emerged as the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world.
Our democracy remained intact through the tumultuous 1960s that brought the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the tragic and violent loss of our president and our greatest civil rights leader. By the end of that trying decade, we put a man on the moon. While the Soviet Union crumbled in the 80s and 90s, the United States thrived and ushered in a technological boom that would revolutionize communication around the globe. As the "American Century" concluded and another began, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda sought to weaken us. But 9/11 strengthened our unity and resolve and inspired the free and peaceful nations of the world to unite with us against terror.
It remains a dangerous world in which both our safety and economic security are threatened. When I hold town hall meetings and visit with fellow Oklahomans throughout the state, I hear from many who are justifiably worried about our future. There is certainly plenty of reason for concern, but there is also every reason to believe we will continue to succeed and flourish. American history has demonstrated time and again that American values and determination are stronger than any challenge. These blessings are worth reflection as we celebrate Thanksgiving.