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THANKSGIVING 2004
DESPITE A LITANY OF PROBLEMS AT HOME, AND ABROAD, REASONS ABOUND FOR GRATITUDE

Today delivers to most of us welcome and enjoyable reminders that good things comfort our lives, that people and places bring warmth to our days, that joy can surprise our hearts even in difficult times.

A resilient community and a place of natural wonders tops our local list of reasons for gratitude. However tough the times, Buffalo and Western New York have found the strength not just to weather the difficulties but to plan for a better future. It's no stretch to find reason for thanks in that enduring hope.

More globally, we can give thanks even for the hardships that shape us as a nation and a people. The world watches our debate over the morality and aims of the war in Iraq from differing viewpoints, but other nations can and should be grateful that we openly embrace that debate in a quest not just for power but for the international spread of freedom and justice. There is reason for thanks in that, as well.

Half a world away, some Americans will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinners in desert mess halls or in compounds surrounded by hostile cities. There is pain in that separation, but there also is gratitude for duties shouldered and sacrifices made. There should be time for a prayer, today, that the future holds reason for thanksgiving as well among the people of Iraq and the Middle East -- and that America's deep sacrifices for that hope some day will be honored.

We are a nation still divided this Thanksgiving. We are fresh from a bitterly partisan election, deep in differences over America's place in the world and its policies both here and abroad. We have yet to fully heal.

Yet heal we will. We always have. The history of this nation is one of strife and unity; we have been splintered by racial and ethnic divides, and nearly broken by a Civil War, yet we have endured as a nation and a people. We have built strength from adversity. There is every reason to believe we will do so again.

And for that, all Americans should be thankful.