Nine times out of ten when someone asked me, "How are you?" I reply, "Fine, thank you." Though my honest feelings might be completely opposite. No more. When asked, I simply reply, "Grateful." To so many people it sounds almost startling, yet several friends have said, "You know what, I'm going to try it."

I am so grateful for so much in my life, I hardly know where to begin. For a start I was born in Wisconsin. I have six children, 17 grandchildren, two grandchildren are half black, four are half-Vietnamese. I have seen firsthand the extraordinary efforts made by my black daughter-in-law and her two children have put forth to achieve parity with white workers in the same position. The pressure on my Vietnamese daughter-in-law and her children is less, but still a constant challenge.

I am grateful for Sister Daniel and Father O'Malley who in grade school taught me about the tenets and teachings of the Baltimore Catechism.

I am grateful that I was able to be one of 16 million men and women who served in the United States armed services in World War II. I am grateful that millions of us who returned from World War II were able to take advantage of the so-called G.I. Bill and received a college degree which most of us could not have afforded.

I am grateful for Medicare and Medicaid. First, for my parents and later for me. Medicare saved both my parents' lives. Of modest financial means, they would not have been able to pay for three major operations without Medicare. For me three very major operations that occurred in an eight week period which required a year long recovery program that I could not have afforded, and which would have seriously strained my financial capacities. I am grateful for Social Security. Hard workers, my parents never had the benefits of a pension. Social Security allowed them to retire with a sense of dignity, not dependent on anyone else for their support.

I am grateful that my deceased wife and I lived the American dream. First a small apartment. Then, after saving money for three or four years, a modest home in the suburbs. Sadly my six children and millions like them are not living the same American dream. Ninety-nine percent of Americans, for the most part, are struggling to simply hold their families together and stay afloat.

I am grateful for all of our armed services members who are fighting and dying to defend and maintain our liberties and freedom. For too long we've been treating returning veterans abominably and only recently began to correct these shameful so-called programs.

For myself, I am grateful that Barack Obama is our President. Thankful that he was elected in 2008 and took immediate and dramatic steps to stop the hemorrhaging occurring in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Steps that prominent economists throughout the world said contributed to prevent the world falling into another Great Depression.

I am grateful that Joe Biden is our Vice President. A politician respected throughout the world including many of our own politicians on both sides of the aisle. I am grateful for our first lady. Intelligent, thoughtful. Wife, mother. A tireless champion for women's rights, children's education, the health and welfare of the poor and elderly and the families of the military.

I am also grateful for Hillary Clinton whom I believe history will show will be one of the greatest Secretary of State's our country has ever had. Tough. A realist. Seemingly indefatigable. Knowledgeable. Intelligent. And respected by world leaders throughout the world. Fighting always for women's rights, the right to vote, and children's health and protection.

I am grateful that President Obama ended the Iraqi war and is closing down the war in Afghanistan, both blots on our moral compass, and both totally unnecessary, and quite simply wrong.

I'm also grateful for thoughtful conservative Republicans: Peggy Noonan, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Maggie Haggand of New Hampshire and all others who dare to speak out against this destructive, neo-con political ideas that are chasing other loyal Republican voters away from the Republican Party.

In closing, let me share with you words spoken by President Obama in 2008 when running for president. "The true test of the American ideal is whether we are able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events in history or whether we act to shape them."

Once again I ask that God bless and protect our precious land and our precious citizens.

Hal DeBona is a resident of Dorset.


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