Giving thanks for a functional democracy

    Here’s a partial list of things for which I’m thankful this week:

    • For American innovation, ingenuity and inventiveness, three “Is” in a winning team that will rebuild our economy long after the stimulus payments are gone.
    • For sports icons like Brett Favre. While many Green Bay fans revile him as a gridiron Benedict Arnold, the fact is that professional football needs household names like Packers’ legend Favre. If you root for Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Cleveland or some other faceless franchise at this point in the season, following your local heroes may hold less interest than tracking the redemption of a 40-year-old quarterback.
      For great teachers who inspire kids to learn.
    • For the Pilgrims, who celebrated their first Thanksgiving in 1621 after leaving England in the Mayflower and surviving a 62-day Atlantic crossing – all, it appears, in hopes of getting away from their relatives for the holiday.
    • For clean water, which we have in abundance in Wisconsin. Even better, the state has the research, development and manufacturing capacity to help the world’s water-poor while building a 21st century industry at home.
    • For a political system that can endure or otherwise overcome 2,000-page health care reform bills, Sarah Palin fans, Sarah Palin haters, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, runaway federal deficits, run-at-the-mouth blogs and run-of-the-mill candidates.
    • For newspapers and other true news outlets. Ever heard of the “Google News Room” winning a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on national news? Ever seen a reporter or editor from Bing or Yahoo covering your local school board or city council? You haven’t and you probably never will. While the Internet has forever changed how the news is delivered, there’s no substitute for local, state and national newsrooms staffed by professionals who actually produce content. The fact you can find news on Google, Bing and Yahoo doesn’t mean it materialized out of thin air. Someone had to report, write and edit it.
    • For emergency service volunteers. When the back tire on my brother’s motorcycle blew out last year on a lonely stretch of West Texas highway, he would likely have died had it not been for the EMS crew in Seagraves, Texas, which quickly triaged his head injuries and put him on a med-flight to a hospital in Lubbock. Those minor miracles are repeated countless times, every day, across America.
    • For our military personnel everywhere.
    • For Wisconsin farm products such as Door County cherries, Portage County potatoes, Crawford County apples and Marathon County ginseng, mainly because the Chinese seem to think our ginseng is better than their home brew.
    • For medical advances that quietly save lives every day. It’s important to protect ourselves and our families from threats such as the H1N1 virus, but it’s worth knowing that some past threats have faded into history. There hasn’t been a case of polio in the Western Hemisphere since 1991. The World Health Organization announced the eradication of smallpox 30 years ago; it killed at least 300 million people in the rest of the 20th century alone. Innovations rooted in Wisconsin have helped to end or control rickets, endemic goiters, anemia, pellagra, skin cancer, bone loss and much more.
    • For the connectivity of modern technology, which allows us to stay in touch with our families, friends, business associates and the world through e-mail, text messages, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and a myriad of social media yet to be invented.
    • For a Thanksgiving holiday that allows us a few days away from all that connectivity.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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