He saw this homeland for the first time in 51 years.
I've spent the last week on a fundraising cruise for National Review magazine. We dropped by the Cayman Islands, Grand Turk and Cozumel. (I gather there are harder jobs.) It was more than just people listening to seminars, meeting one another, sharing gratitude for people and principles they appreciate and hold dear.
And we passed by Cuba. A usual late-riser, our Cuban exile cruiser says he was given "a gift from God," when he found himself awake, to look out and see the country he fled as a youth. A flood of memories came back, and a dream that a future cruise might bring him home.
He was so grateful. Not bitter. Not sad. Just grateful.
This entire ship has been full of gratitude. Yes, because the midterm elections saw some right-leaning wins and this is a right-leaning crowd. Speaker John Boehner became a little more official while the USS NR was on water. Mitch McConnell listened to the tea-party movement and embraced an end to earmarks. There is gratitude for these things. You don't have to agree that earmark reform is the be-all and end-all to recognize that it was an issue in this election. And, as with the health-care legislation that was passed in the spring, to go from a Washington that wasn't listening to American voters to a Washington feeling a new kind of responsibility toward them -- this is good. How we do this in such a relatively peaceful manner is something to be grateful for.
There is gratitude for those who have been true trailblazers in the fight for truth and justice.
Liberal feminists are forever honoring those they deem heroines in the face of supposed oppression. But one woman who was among the first females to graduate from Harvard is not on their list of honorees.
The scene: our nation's capital, around three decades ago.
The Senate had passed it 84 to 8. The House had passed it 354 to 23. Thirty states had approved it in the first year after it was sent for ratification. Only eight more states were needed. The Equal Rights Amendment was going to be the next Constitutional amendment. But it's not, because Phyllis Schlafly stopped it.
She was a Mamma Grizzly long before John McCain would pick Sarah Palin as his running mate. Born in St. Louis, a place where I'm not sure that grizzly bears are all that comfortable. But comfortable she is.
She's a lady who saw threats to marriage and family itself being pushed by the ERA and its proponents, and she would have none of it. We have a lot to thank her for -- including for being a lady who modeled fearlessness in politics, even while being labeled a self-hating woman who deserved to be burned at the stake.
I'll frequently find myself debating feminists, arguing about feminism and how it has made the world worse. I'm frequently told that I'm an ungrateful witch, except that's not actually the word used. I'm reminded that I have Gloria Steinem to thank for the fact that I'm even allowed to have an opinion, never mind get paid for having them in such a man's world. Well, I was grateful for Schlafly, a woman who has been successful in politics and philosophy without walking away from faith or family or femininity.
I, along with many others I've been talking to, am grateful for a constitutional system worth protecting.
We are grateful for enduring institutions. Even as Nancy Pelosi thanked God for liberal religious sisters who bucked up her dangerous health-care legislation in the run-up to Thanksgiving, the Catholic bishops' conference showed that it understands these are not times of business at usual in a church bureaucracy. Breaking with tradition and seniority, they chose a leader over the next in line. A leader who has helped train and inspire an orthodox, faithful army of young priests willing to take on the lies of secular culture.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, based on Fifth Avenue, now has a second leadership base in our nation's capitol, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I'm certainly grateful for that.
On the Review's fundraising cruise, there was true gratitude for some of these things and so much more. Although we held panels and had book signings and dealt in all things political, it was impossible not to notice that people cared about much more than that. There was a gratitude for life, and an appreciation that politics is not an end in itself.
And on the Cayman Islands, when I stopped by a perpetual adoration chapel at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, I was grateful to be reminded that whatever is going on, someone, somewhere is on their knees in prayer. Men in the middle of their work day, students dropping by for a word, young women between errands. Even on a random Thursday afternoon, they were there. The Thursday before the day Americans dedicate to gratitude: the day that we should seek to make every day. And if you need any inspiration to do so, think of a Cuban exile on a cruise ship, snapping photos, seeing old memories flash before him, with only gratitude in his heart. And hope for the freedom there that he enjoys in his adopted home, America.
Have a happy Thanksgiving this week, and every day.
Kathryn Lopez is the editor of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.