When I was growing up, we didn’t stand much on ceremony on Thanksgiving. When Grandma announced that dinner was ready, uncles, aunts and cousins made a beeline for the serving table. Grandpap said a short blessing and we all dug in. In recent years, when I had Thanksgiving with my wife’s family, dinner included going around the table and letting everyone say what they were thankful for that year.
Thinking about 2021, I’m thankful, of course, for my friends and family. But in a year where a pandemic continued to test our will and where rancor, meanness and misinformation again dominated our politics, I’m especially thankful for many folks. Here’s my list:
● Health care workers and first responders. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best and worst in us over the past two years. The best of us have included emergency workers who often have faced the disease head-on daily. They have labored tirelessly to protect and save lives, often putting themselves at risk and sometimes ending up sick or dead.
● Young activists worldwide, such as Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, Louisiana’s Jayden Foytlin, and Uganda’s Patience Nabukalu, who continue to create public awareness and apply pressure on world leaders to take real action to combat the threats of global warming to our planet and its inhabitants. Young people helped lead tens of thousands of marchers in Glasgow, Scotland, recently during the United Nations climate summit to urge the world’s political leaders to move from talking about the crisis to taking specific actions now, including aggressively phasing out fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming.
● Congressional Democrats for passing in March President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion health and economic stimulus package geared mainly to helping low-income and middle-class residents in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It included extending unemployment benefits; $1,400 in direct payments to individuals; expanded child tax credit; increased funding for public schools; grants to small businesses; rental assistance; and a national COVID-19 vaccination program. No Republican in Congress voted for it, although several tried to claim credit later.
● Congressional Democrats and even some Republicans for passing Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he signed last week. The $1 trillion legislation will bring once-in-a-generation highway, bridge and other improvements and jobs nationwide. Besides upgrading highways and other transportation modes, the legislation will provide increased access to the internet and will help fund clean-water projects and improvements to the nation’s electric grid. Nineteen Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans voted for the bill. None were from Texas.
● Our nation’s undervalued public school teachers for their grit and professionalism in continuing to educate our children while facing an ongoing pandemic and often poor response from state governments. Teachers struggled to educate kids online in the 2020-21 school year. Then schools returned to in-person learning this school year as if everything were back to normal, but it was not, thanks to the spread of a virus variant. Several states, including Texas, declined to require mask wearing to reduce virus spread, and sued school districts that did. Numerous teachers burned out and quit, leaving shortages. Those remaining have larger classes. To make matters worse, Texas and other states have taken to school-book banning again, adding racism to the list of things they don’t want kids to learn about. I don’t know how teachers manage to haul themselves into their classrooms anymore. Those who do deserve our gratitude every day, not just on Thanksgiving.
● Finally, thanks to those of you who have taken time this past year to email me your thoughts in response to my columns.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
McCann is a contributing columnist for the Advertiser. He is a retired journalist and may be reached at Easywriter12345@yahoo.com.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Opinion: Grateful for health care workers, activists, teachers, Dems