U.S. Consul Robert Settje Thanksgiving Message

November 28, 2013

[Written by U.S. Consul General to Bermuda, Robert Settje]

War and unrest, terrorist attacks, killer storms, mass shootings, crime, gangs, murder, mayhem, struggling economies, poverty – if you read the headlines or listen to the TV news, you’d think we lived in an ever disintegrating world in which all the things we hold dear are rapidly slipping away. You might even reach the conclusion that there is no longer anything for which to be thankful.

Respectfully, I beg to differ. Each day brings its challenges, of course, but nearly all of us have family and friends who love us and whom we love in return. While we might not be rich, most of us have a place to sleep, nourishing food to eat, and any number of modern conveniences to enjoy. Most of you reading this are fortunate enough to live on this beautiful group of islands called Bermuda, with its mix of friendly and enterprising people from all parts of the world. For that we can be thankful.

Despite the gloom and doom we so often see in the media, we can also be thankful to be alive today, at this moment, in this century. Yes, there are wars and terror attacks and natural disasters and crime and violence. But as a number of scholars have recently pointed out,the world is a safer place than it has ever been.

Gone are the massive wars – wars that consumed millions of lives and caused untold grief and anguish to many millions more – that our parents faced only a few short decades ago.Better is our response to typhoons and earthquakes, helping to minimize loss of life and limit damage. Crime in general and violent crime in particular has fallen in both Bermuda and the United States, reaching levels not seen in Bermuda since 2000 and in the U.S. since the 1960s.

We also live in prosperous times. We may still be reeling from the recent global economic downturn, but the reality is that standards of living in the Western world are higher than they were a mere 20 years ago. The developing world has seen even more dramatic improvement: according to the United Nations, from 1991 to 2010 the percentage of the world’s population living in poverty fell from 43% to 21%.Life expectancy continues to increase around the world. On average, we live safer, better, and longer lives than ever before. For that, too, we can be thankful.

I recognize, of course, that there are those among us who have not been as fortunate as the rest and who struggle with health issues, or family problems, or making ends meet. Tragedy can strike any one of us at any time. But it is seeing the beauty in the world, the large – and small -things that matter not only to us but also to others, and the light at the end of a sometimes long dark tunnel, that gives us perspective and truly allows us to recognize our many blessings.

That is what the American holiday of Thanksgiving is all about. It is a time to reflect on the good that has been bestowed upon us, on the many ways in which we’ve been blessed. In the U.S., we do that by getting together with family and friends and celebrating the moment.

Certainly we’ve made a ritual out of it – the turkey with all the trimmings [including that awful cranberry sauce], American football on the TV, even if we don’t care about who’s playing – but it is still a time of quiet reflection that helps bring peace and balance to our lives. To quote the English poet William Blake, who probably never heard of our holiday but who captured the sentiment perfectly, “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”

On behalf of the people of the United States and under the patronage of the American Society of Bermuda, I invite all of you – Americans, Bermudians, everyone – to an interfaith Thanksgiving Day service at 12:15 PM today at St. Andrews Church, 49 Church Street, Hamilton, to share thanks and to acknowledge our many blessings. I will have the honor of reading President Barack Obama’s Thanksgiving Proclamation at the service.

-  Robert Settje

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