I’ve been seeing a lot of “I’m Thankful for” things on my Facebook news feed over the past 21 days. I’ve not done a lot of that mainly because I think expressions of gratitude are personal in nature and I like to do them one-on-one, face-to-face. That’s just me, kinda being the strong silent type when it comes to things like that.

But, as I was thinking about my last election, I became grateful for something. I discovered (or rediscovered) that I’m grateful for something I’ll term “The Promise.” I’m not talking about the Kalamazoo Promise (even though I am grateful for what that program has done for my hometown and for the future tuition it will cover for my daughter Cristiana). I’m talking about the promise that is America.

This last election, for me, was painful. I had never experienced negative campaigning for a county commission seat before. I had never experienced the low down dirty side of what people could do when they’re faced with someone with an opposing point of view. I always thought that sort of thing was best left to state and national elections (or sometimes Jaycee elections). I figured at the local level, civility and kindness ruled the day.

Among the many scenes from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, one that stands out for me is from the Season 4 episode, The Long Goodbye. C.J. Cregg, the President’s Press Secretary gives a speech to her high school reunion class about “The Promise of a Generation.” She says, in part:

… Every generation has promise, and every generation fails that promise in somerespects.How can we not? What is promise if not something that’s impossible to live
up to …

I’ve been thinking a lot about civility, civic duty, and kindness, and how pervasive and powerful they are, how enduringly persuasive those qualities are in American life, and how I see them all around me, day after day.

America is a terribly difficult idea filled with promise and impossible to live up to. Promise is inchoate and promise is what binds us … But failed promise only truly fails when it leads to lowered expectations.

My generation, us XGens, are coming up to a time where we are in charge. We have so much promise. The folks who come after us have so much promise as well. I have faith that we will not lower expectations. I have faith that we will rise to the occasion.

And because of that promise, because of our promise … I find myself very thankful this time of the year.