Thinking back on Thanksgiving from when I was a child, I remember being told by my parents and teachers to be grateful for what I had, including living in the United States.  But as a kid, the meaning of “how lucky I was to live in the U.S.” wasn’t easy to comprehend. Of course, I had some sense of what it might feel like to be physically hungry, so when they told me I was lucky to have food and to finish my plate, I understood. But the intangibles—my community, my freedom, my liberties—took longer to deeply cherish.

Having grown older, I can better appreciate what my parents and teachers meant when they said to be grateful for family, friends, community, and life in the U.S., the land of opportunity.  Being grateful for these things is relatively easy as they are front and center in my life. But admittedly, I often forget that I live in the greatest country in the world. I am blessed to be here.

The United States has profoundly benefitted from the multi-national blend of people here—from those who from the very beginning of this country chose liberty and freedom over servitude to a foreign king. As the “rumor” of this great nation grew abroad, more and more immigrants from across the world sought our shores to declare their own personal independence, weaving into the fabric of our nation new traditions, innovations, and perspectives.

Each generation has brought immigrants to the U.S. from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Latin America.  While the people, customs, and culture are varied, once they arrive in America, they work hard, raise families, engage in and contribute to their communities, and develop friendships.

Over the years, this blend of old immigrants, new immigrants, and native-born citizens have created the most dynamic culture and economy in the world.  The U.S. has become a beacon of democracy, hope, and the ethos that anything is possible with hard work.  Immigrants have built successful new companies at an amazing clip here, companies that employ millions of Americans. Because of this, America is a leader in virtually every field and the mightiest global power. Yet, it seems these days our gratefulness for the intangibles has grown dim.  Our leaders seek to put America on a high shelf where it cannot be touched for fear of it breaking, like a piece of fine china.  We forget that half of the joy of having fine china is putting it to use—the stories, laughter, and thoughtful discussions that take place over dinner when it touches the hands of many.

America was built on the backs of generations of immigrants seeking to make a better life through hard work, not handouts.  America’s economic might, which is byproduct of that hard work, has created some of the best living standards in the world.  At the same time, America has led the way helping “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…”

Let us not forget our history.  This Thanksgiving, let’s remember what our parents and teachers told us when we were young and be grateful for the multiple blessings we have as Americans.  Let us also remember that America is a nation of hardworking, kind and generous people.  We all spring from the very individuals described in the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. We must continue to welcome and encourage those immigrants who want to build and better the future of this great nation. Happy Thanksgiving to all.