I have more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving this year than ever before. I was born in America, after all — I am a winner of life's lottery. And I came into the world in 1962, a grand time to be born.
Sure, there was upheaval in America in the '60s. JFK was assassinated. America entered Vietnam. Martin Luther King was assassinated. America's social fabric appeared to be coming apart at the seams.
But children were insulated from such things then. Though it was a difficult time to be an adult — fathers carried the financial burden while mothers had limited opportunities outside of the home — it was a great time to be a kid.
We were still innocent then. We didn't know or worry about the threats that today seem commonplace. We were free to roam and play and discover. My generation enjoyed the last great American childhood.
It's true, too, that by the mid-'70s America's social fabric really was coming apart at the seams, as David Frum pointed out in his 2000 book, The '70s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life — For Better or Worse. Frum documented how the ideas that took root in the 1960s — free love, broken marriages, drug use and a breakdown in social norms — went mainstream in the '70s.
During the '70s, crime grew at alarming rates. The economy tanked. Interest rates soared. A president resigned. America lost faith in its government, its institutions, itself.
But better times were ahead. I was a freshman in college when President Reagan was shot. But the eternally optimistic fellow persevered. Many of his bold ideas persevered, too — low taxes, deregulation, a strategy to end the Cold War.
It was rocky going at first — and there are always those who will dispute the success of his policies — but Reagan reinvigorated American optimism. He helped unleash our creativity and productivity and our economic vitality has continued, uninterrupted for the most part, ever since.
It's a great irony that, as we head into the next presidential election, some candidates want to turn back the clocks to ideas that failed — ever-bigger government, ever-less freedom, high taxes. It's even more ironic that potential leaders of the most prosperous nation in the history of mankind would propose such policies as much of the world is going the opposite direction.
According to WorldWide-Tax.com, Russia's income-tax rate is a flat 13 percent. Slovakia ditched its top rate of 38 percent for a flat tax of 19 percent. Estonia has a flat tax of 22 percent, Poland's is 19 percent and Serbia's is 14 percent.
But I stray from my central point — that I've got more to celebrate this Thanksgiving than ever before. Every year, I get a little wiser. I realize a little more how unlikely it was for the founders of any country to attempt an experiment as our Founders did. They risked all so that our government would be accountable to the common man and not the other way around.
They risked all for freedom — my freedom.
It was through simple good luck that I was born in America rather than, say, Soviet Russia. The Russians tried an experiment, too — one in which the government ran everything and the common man was accountable to it. That experiment resulted in the oppression and massacre of millions. It failed miserably. Its legacy still troubles a proud people.
I'm thankful I was born at a great time and in a blessed place. And though we may slip up now and then, we've shown great capacity to correct ourselves. No sooner do we make a wrong turn than we find a way to set ourselves right.
"Our country is not where it is today on account of any one man," said Will Rogers. "It's here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority." I become more aware of this every year — more aware of how incredible our blessings really are.
That's why I have more to celebrate this Thanksgiving than ever before.