- - Thursday, November 22, 2012

This week, most Americans from sea to shining sea will gather for a special meal. Thanksgiving Day is when all of us, regardless of who we are or our origins, can take a moment to reflect on the bounty that is ours as citizens of these United States.

It is appropriate to take these moments of grateful reflection, even during moments of disappointment. Serving my constituents in the House of Representatives has been one of the highest honors of my life. I am thankful to have had that opportunity but disappointed it will not continue.

Since Election Day, my staff and supporters worked to uphold the integrity of America’s electoral system. We tried to make sure every vote was counted accurately and fairly. While many supporters urged me to continue to contest the results of the election, my legal team did not believe further action would affect the outcome.

As a result, this will be a particularly bittersweet celebration for my family, as I expect it might be for many families across the country.

There is much economic hardship in our nation, and depending on the decisions taken during the next few months, it may deepen before it improves. There is a gathering storm in the Middle East, with potentially serious implications for the security of our country, and particularly that of our closest ally, Israel.

Many Americans are losing confidence in the nation they knew as children. Based on the popular vote in this past presidential election, it would appear just over half of our fellow citizens have lost confidence in their own ability to improve their lot in life without the help of the federal government. Almost as many Americans have lost confidence in the federal government’s ability to solve any problem.

Nonetheless, we shall sit down together as a nation and give thanks for all that we do have. No matter how lavish or how meager our celebration, as Americans we are all still imbued with the same unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

America is still a country like no other on Earth. More than two centuries ago, our Founders created a nation where an individual’s station in life was not determined by birthright, but by his own efforts and dreams. Even citizenship was not a matter of heritage or place of birth. All that is required is a pledge to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

It is this Constitution that forms the basis of our American exceptionalism. It is the framework that allows each of us to pursue our dreams, to succeed, to make mistakes, to overcome them and rise even higher.

During this past election cycle, we heard a lot about the “haves and have-nots” in society, the “1 percenters,” and the millionaires and billionaires — as if these were fixed classes that remain the same in numbers year after year, with no chance for those below to move above.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As economists such as Thomas Sowell and Mark Perry have so clearly identified in their analysis of the facts, those in a lower-income bracket today, such as young couples and recent college graduates, will rise to the higher income brackets tomorrow, and some of the wealthiest among us will, for one reason or another, lose their standing among the top 1 percent.

Such is the mobility our free market allows, and the liberty to pursue it, as our Constitution guarantees.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we must be thankful we are citizens of a nation where this is still possible, for there are those around the globe who are still fighting for this liberty, and those among us on far-flung shores fighting to defend it.

In the United States, we are blessed with the freedom to pursue our dreams and to disagree on what they should be — loudly and passionately if we wish — but we must never, ever relinquish this freedom, whether it is in the name of political correctness or economic justice.

As the dust settles from the election, and we look ahead for the direction of our country, we will need to overcome a deep ideological divide regarding the role of government in our lives, and what it truly means to be an American.

It is my deepest hope, that as the citizens of this nation sit around their tables, they will be thankful to be Americans, where individual sovereignty and freedom to succeed is not granted by government agencies or officials, cannot be taken away in the name of fairness, but is imbedded in the Constitution, with liberty and justice for all.

Rep. Allen B. West is a Florida Republican.

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