Politics & Policy

Giving Thanks, 2014

Don’t let this week pass without doing so.

Gratitude for our gifts and blessings is a good practice, and once a year we formalize it with our national holiday. As is a tradition here, some specific words of thanks are said.



None of my grandparents graduated from high school. My mom tells me that her parents, Sicilian immigrants, never even attended high school. My mom wasn’t fortunate enough to go to college, and my dad earned his degree at night school. Together, they successfully raised five sons: a college professor, an assistant U.S. attorney, two bankers, and me.

My family’s story is remarkable for being entirely unremarkable. It’s the story of so many American families — it’s the story of the American dream. Before I knew the philosophical arguments or social-science statistics, I experienced the benefits of an intact family firsthand.

Today, November 26, my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. This Thanksgiving I’m particularly thankful for their faithfulness: Faithfulness to each other and to the five sons they’ve raised together.

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the editor of Public Discourse. He is a co-author, with Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George, of the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Follow him on Twitter @RyanT_Anderson.


Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without remembering the one to whom we give thanks — our Creator and the author of grace and gratitude. To me it is ever astounding that the Lord of the Universe — through his Son and his Spirit — is as close as the beat of my sinner’s heart, attentive to my prayers and appreciative of my thanks.

— Ralph Kinney Bennett retired from the Washington bureau of The Reader’s Digest as an assistant managing editor.


This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the clarifying of American politics. I don’t just mean the Republican midterm victories (thank you! thank you! thank you!), but the way the issues have come to stand in stark relief. I don’t mind losing. Well, actually, I do mind losing (and thank you! thank you! thank you! for the Senate results). But I especially mind losing when no one seems to know exactly what they’re voting for — when the issues are vague, symbolic, and fuzzied-up by the media. I don’t want us to vote on the basis of a haircut from a teen-aged Mitt Romney. I want Americans to vote on the philosophical questions of constitutional government.

But then, in an opposite way, I’m thankful for the quicksilver madness of Pope Francis, who has dashed everyone’s hopes for an ideological papacy. I don’t agree with all the suggestions he’s made, but the point is that no one agrees with all his suggestions. The man is determined to shake everybody out of political categories when they think about the Church — because, you know, Christianity isn’t politics. It’s one of the things that come before politics, and American politics has always worked best when politics isn’t the most important thing in our lives.

I’m thankful for the amazing pictures of snow in Buffalo, while equally glad I don’t live there. I’m thankful for the cold pines marching like a caravan along the mountain ridges here in the Black Hills. I’m thankful for my family, for rediscovering American roots music this year, for the gift of God’s creation, and the joy of existence.

But most of all I’m thankful — or at least, I hope to be thankful — when we don’t burn down the house on Thanksgiving, deep-frying the turkey.

Joseph Bottum is a best-selling writer of Kindle Singles on Amazon and author, most recently, of An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.


I am thankful for love, sweet love. And marathon, wide-ranging, good-natured, possibly circular arguments about the nature of every thing. Starting with life itself.

— Marjorie Dannenfelser is president and chairman of the board of the Susan B. Anthony List.



I am thankful for Barry Goldwater and his willingness to run for president against LBJ in 1964, knowing he could not win and yet determined to offer the American people a conservative choice, not a liberal echo. One direct consequence of his principled campaign was his approval of Ronald Reagan’s historic TV address, “A Time for Choosing.” In political shorthand: no presidential candidate Goldwater, no President Reagan.

I am thankful for Phyllis Schlafly, the First Lady of Conservatism, who at age 90 continues to confound liberals and inspire conservatives with her eloquent defense of faith and the family.

I am thankful for Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, John Paul II, Armando Valledares, Andrei Sakharov, Cardinal Mindszenty, the students of Tiananmen Square, and all those who resisted communism without regard for the price they might have to pay, freedom fighters one and all.

Lee Edwards is a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


I am thankful for . . . 

Miss Hirt (10th- and 12th-grade English), Mr. Del Negro (high-school band director), Mr. Lauffer (high-school choral director), and Miss Balukjian (high-school Latin). Everyone else taught me stuff I’ve never used, and to this day, I don’t believe they ever thought I’d use it, either.

My regional electric company, which reminded me this past winter of how much I valued warmth, especially during the week their abysmal lack of planning for snow shut them down. Not that this discouraged them from sending me the highest utility bill I’d ever received.

The townships surrounding the borough of Gettysburg, which illustrate what a special place Gettysburg is . . . by hemming it in on all sides and forcing the borough’s slim property-tax base to fund the schools, streets, and services that residents of the townships use so cheerfully. Think of us the next time you read The Giving Tree to the kiddies.

The Federal Reserve Bank, for keeping interest rates suicidally low and nudging hedge-fund managers, Wall Street banks, and public-employee pension funds to displays of fiscal gymnastics not seen since the Flying Wallendas decided to take lessons from Wile E. Coyote.

The Confederate States of America, for demonstrating that economies based on forced labor, internal passports, and nationalized industry inevitably lose to liberty, self-sacrifice, and free labor.

The state of New Jersey, for keeping the Atlantic Ocean a safe, happy, and healthy distance from Pennsylvania. Beyond that, I’m not clear on what other purpose New Jersey serves.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and the director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College.



As per usual, I am most grateful for a happy, healthy, loving family, but this year I am also grateful to Pope Francis for summoning the Humanum Conference, which makes it simply impossible to conclude that it is irrational to believe that it is “irrational” to define marriage as between one man and one woman, as so many left-wing courts have held, and to Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and his staff, priests and laypeople, for preparing Philadelphia to host not just the Pope but the world in the City of Brotherly Love (and the Declaration and the Constitution) during the World Meeting of Families in Philly in September 2015. What an enormous, arduous, but important undertaking, for which everyone should be grateful.

— Hugh Hewitt is the host of the radio talk show The Hugh Hewitt Show with the Salem Radio Network.



About six months into the endeavor, I’m thankful for marriage. This will be my first married Thanksgiving and my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. Being married is a joy, and I’m thankful for the security of being committed to each other. But marriage is also an exercise in putting someone else’s interests ahead of your own. That’s hard, but often it’s the hard stuff in life that gives it meaning. So I’m thankful for marriage, and all that comes with it.

Hadley Heath Manning is a policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.


Liberty! I am so grateful that God allowed me to be born in a nation that recognizes that all rights come from Him. Unlike women in much of the world: I can travel alone without a man, I can drive myself, I was free to marry whom and when I wished, I can wear what I choose, I can say what I think, and I can worship Jesus without fear. I am overflowing in gratitude to God for this great nation and the freedom I enjoy in it. I join with the 500,000 members of Concerned Women for America working both to preserve this precious gift for future generations and to advocate for those around the world who do not possess liberty.

— Penny Nance is the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.


Two special memories remind me of something to be thankful for.

A couple of days after 9/11, I attended an interfaith prayer service in observance of the attack. It started with an Army ROTC color guard, which included a couple of my students. Seeing them in uniform, I suddenly realized that they would someday be in harm’s way. Before that moment, I thought of them as nice, bright college kids. Afterward, I saw them as soldiers defending our way of life.

The other moment came four years ago. My wife’s uncle, who had helped raise her, had died at the age of 88. He had served in the Navy aboard Enterprise during the Second World War, surviving severe injuries in an accident. As a veteran, he was now entitled to military honors at his funeral. Upon folding the flag, a sailor in the honor detail said to Uncle Larry’s widow: “On behalf of the President of the United States, a proud Navy and a grateful nation, I present this flag to you in recognition of our shipmate’s years of honorable and faithful service to his country.” The sailor was young enough to be Uncle Larry’s grandson, but there was not a trace of irony in his voice when he referred to him as “our shipmate.”

I am thankful for the students who served in the honor guard back in 2001, and for our other alumni who have served in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I am thankful for Uncle Larry and his shipmates. I am thankful for all of the brave Americans in uniform whose service allows us to celebrate Thanksgiving.

— John J. Pitney, Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.



The impetus for co-founding the non-profit Endow came from the rich encounter that I and others had with the original writings of St. John Paul II on the vocation and dignity of women. While I had a vague notion of the Catholic faith, it was not until I got it “straight from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak, that it really struck me deeply. As anyone who has ever played “telephone” knows, there’s just something about getting the story from the original source!

In a similar way, this is why I was so grateful to hear Pope Francis announce his plans to come to our country next fall to speak on marriage and the family in Philadelphia. After all the often confused coverage and conflicting accounts surrounding the Synod, I am excited that I will have the opportunity to personally hear the Holy Father himself speak on these matters at the World Meeting of Families.

I am further thankful that Endow will have the privilege of presenting at one of the World Meeting of Families’ workshops. When we have the opportunity to pay back a debt or favor once done, it is an occasion of great joy and gratitude. So to have the opportunity, on behalf of the Church, to transform hearts and evangelize minds through Endow as the Church once did for me is a profound gift for which I am deeply humbled and grateful! I hope to see many National Review readers in Philly come September 2015.

— Terry Polakovic is the co-founder and president of Endow. Her daughter is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy from Alma, Mich., and her son is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.



In my day-to-day life, running from DC to Miami, from meeting to meeting, from my kids’ football practice to their choir practice, it’s easy to forget to stop and take stock of all the blessings around me. Thanksgiving is a chance to do exactly that.

The first and greatest blessing in my life is the unconditional love of an almighty God — a God who loves every human being so much that He sent His only son to die so we could spend eternity with Him. Through the person of Jesus, God has also given us our greatest example for how to live while on this earth — an example of servant leadership, of perfect grace, of humble virtue.

Then I’m blessed by the most profoundly personal gift God has given me: my family, including my wife and children, and my mother, father, and grandfather, all of whom have left an indelible stamp on my life. I’m also thankful for those ancestors who established the traditions and customs that have been passed along in my family down through the ages, and the future generations yet to be born, who nonetheless inspire my work every day.

Next I’m thankful to be born in the single greatest nation in history, and to have the unique privilege of working to heal that nation’s wounds and extend its promise. This week, as I’m home with my family, I will see the living proof of the greatness of this land. I’ll see my mother, who worked humble jobs much of her life, yet through the power of the American Dream left a better life behind for her children and grandchildren.

I’m grateful for the food I’ll be having this week, and the good times we’ll have preparing and enjoying it. Then, of course, there are blessings that are a bit more prosaic in nature. I’m thankful for the Miami Dolphins and the fact that they will be winning the Super Bowl in the next few years. (Can’t a guy dream?)

So to sum it all up, I’m grateful for Faith, Family, Freedom, Food, and Football. Not a bad list.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

— Marco Rubio is a United States senator from Florida.


This Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks to God for the lives of my in-laws, one a daughter of Sicily and the other the son of immigrants. They are either approaching age 80 or on the other side of it, and 2014 has been the first year either of them has had to deal with a serious health issue. As ever, they were troupers about it.

They are part of the blue-collar backbone upon which America grew hardy and strong, and of a breed almost unrecognizable today: honest, faithful, selfless, unpretentious, and hard-working. They are untroubled by trends and uninterested in indulging commonplace chatter, or navel-gazing, or their own hurt feelings.

Raising five sons on a workman’s salary (supplemented by second, sometimes third, jobs), this couple has modeled for us the whole idea of what “unconditional love” means. She is the first person on the block to greet a new neighbor or, hearing of illness, bring food for the family. He is the man who, if he sees anyone working on a project, does not hesitate to amble over with a toolbox as unaccountably full as Mary Poppins’ carpetbag, and a lifetime’s worth of experience and creative invention, to share.

They’ve watched their sons become educated, married, divorced, depressed, and, sometimes, out-of-the-closet without ever once giving the impression, or the suggestion, that there were limits to what they could love, or would accept.

They are ridiculous about Thanksgiving, and how they have lived so long — and remained quite fit — eating manicotti, and lasagna, and cannoli, is either a testament to the healing power of making every meal a celebration of family or a rebuke to the government’s food pyramid and its claimed expertise. I grouse about their requirements for the Thanksgiving meal, but I am thankful that they are healthy, and still with us — still rocking the pasta maker, still calling to neighbors, from porch to porch, with an offer of black coffee and a little dolce. Capiche?

— Elizabeth Scalia is the author of the award-winning Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life and managing editor of the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com, where she blogs at “The Anchoress.”


Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without giving thanks for our abundant blessings, as George Washington did in his inaugural Thanksgiving proclamation, to “that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be” and without “beseech[ing] Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

— Ed Whelan is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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