Thanksgiving represents a time to break bread with friends and family and to express gratitude for life’s blessings. The holiday season presents the opportunity to pause and take stock of the good that has come to pass in the previous year. But this year, I’d like to challenge everyone to join me in finding gratitude in the trials as well.
When I was growing up, it would’ve been easy for my family to succumb to the feeling of hopelessness. My dad left when I was 7 years old, and we had to move in with my grandparents, where my mom, brother, and I shared a single room with a single bed. My mom worked double shifts many days to provide for us. According to data, history, and experience, I was never meant to succeed in life.
Yet, I now know my miserable start was my life’s greatest blessing. Our misery became my motivation, and now I look back knowing that all things are possible because we live in this great country.
Only in America can a Black man, the grandson of a cotton picker, be elected to a seat in the birthplace of the Civil War and win a Republican primary against the sons of two of South Carolina’s most powerful political dynasties. Given the opportunity, our great state continues to lead the country on its redemptive journey.
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621, paint from 1914. Private Collection. Artist Brownscombe, Jennie Augusta (1850-1936).
(Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
I share my cotton to Congress story so often not just to help people understand me and my family’s story. It’s not really about us. It’s about the miracle of America. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: America is the solution, not the problem.
Today, I worry that we’ve forgotten that timeless truth. According to a Gallup poll released one month ago, less than half our country believes that it is likely the next generation will have a better future than their parents. At 57%, the percentage of Americans who have lost hope in the future of our country is the worst number recorded since the question was first polled 27 years ago.
I get it. We’re facing challenges as a country that are testing our resilience. Whether it’s the economic recession, toxic politics of division, or uncertainty about our place in the world — people are exhausted by the constant crises. In turn, we find ourselves in a crisis of confidence that represents one of the greatest threats to our future success.
Faith in the future gives us power in the present. We have to have optimism, which means believing that the best is yet to come and showing people how we get there. If the American people have lost faith in the future that means that today’s leaders aren’t charting a clear path.
We must reframe our own personal histories, as well as our shared history, through a new perspective. If we do, I believe we will have a radical reawakening of faith in our nation that is necessary to power the next great American century. We need leaders who have servants’ hearts for the people, a vision to see the promise of our future, and the warrior spirit to make the personal sacrifices necessary in pursuit of that mission.
In Galatians 6:9, Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Paul was imploring the church to let resilience and optimism be the twin pillars of their expression of faith; to not let forces of division tear the new church apart.
Similarly, we must never falter in our faith in America. We must reject the false prophets of today who sow doubt that our country and her people are worth fighting for. We must decide today that we will be warriors for the future of our country and the fundamental principles on which our nation was built: individual liberty, economic empowerment and religious freedom. This is the path forward for a more hopeful and united American family.