Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some Final Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2009

Happy Thanksgiving. On this day I am truly grateful for all of my many blessings. I am thankful for my wonderful family. I am grateful for a lifetime of terrific friends. I am thankful to our military for their courageous service. And I am thankful to be an American, the greatest country on earth.

I am grateful that I chose to be a journalist, and for my former colleagues at CBS News, Fox News and Telemundo/NBC News. I am grateful to have an opportunity to teach journalism at New York University, the students are all great. I am grateful to have worked with and known Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt, Ron Silver, among those friends who died this past year.

Yet while I am so grateful I can't help but be reminded of those who are not so lucky, especially this year.

About one in five Americans were hungry at some point this year. On the Upper East Side of New York City homeless people sleep every night in the entryway of a famous church surrounded by multi-million dollar condominiums, coops and townhouses. Wealthy people frequently pass by while walking their dogs after dinner.

About 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. I know of someone who contracted cancer and now is having difficulty getting health insurance because she has a preexisting condition. I know of someone who left a job and started his own business that is struggling to get health insurance. I know a young boy who has brain cancer. His family's efforts to find a cure for him have been slowed by insurance companies.

It is estimated that more than 10% of eligible Americans cannot get full time work. I know some people who have been out of work for a long time. They are smart and skilled at their profession yet they were laid off because of the economic downturn and changes in business models and technology. The unemployment rate is still increasing at an alarming rate throughout the country.

Millions of Americans have either defaulted on their home mortgage or are on the verge of doing so in the next few months. Many more are "under water" as the value of their home is well below the amount of their mortgage. Little is being done to slow this serious problem. Of course, credit card companies with high interest rates and penalties are hosing many of these same Americans.

While a few powerful investment banks are setting record profits and paying huge bonuses, dozens more are near bankruptcy. Banking regulations have not been improved, and the fat cats are not loaning money to average Americans. Rather they are making money off financial investments, many of which are financed with government loans at zero interest. Wall Street and Main Street are worlds apart.

Our country is involved in two wars, where thousands of American soldiers have died or been injured. While there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent for uncertain long-term gain. Meanwhile, the threat of terrorism is ever present.

The country remains polarized, and the shouting is louder than at any time in recent memory. Short-term political gain and local agendas have paralyzed our government.

So while I have plenty to be thankful for, on this great American holiday I can't help but wonder about the future for my daughter and my country. Yet I remain optimistic that the very characteristics that have made our country great for more than two centuries will lead us to even brighter days ahead.

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