A County for Which We Give Thanks
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 18, 2001

Recently the Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" fame, said he was tired of hearing politicians saying, "God Bless America".  In his sage and curmudgeon-like style, he critiqued politicians for invoking God's name in this manner and indicated he felt it either less than genuine or downright insincere.  Mr. Rooney went on to say that he would be much more impressed if politicians would say something like, "May god bless all the other countries in the world like He has blessed America"! 

Please understand that I do want God to "Bless America" and will continue using this prayer at the end of my speeches when I so desire.  However, Andy Rooney has caused me to think twice about a rather well worn statement and to consider using a statement that reflects a very deep level of our yearning here in America: that all people across the globe would do well.  CNN and other news outlets remind us of just how much better off America is every time we see the news!

It is my deepest desire that you and your family enjoy the fullness of our great country in this season of Thanksgiving.  May we remember not only the pilgrims that first began the custom of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving, but appreciate the many endless gifts of our heritage, purchased at a tremendous price over our relatively brief history as a country, by our ancestors. 

As we see the brutal manner in which the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and other iron regimes around the world govern, may we appreciate our constitutional rights: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, of the press, to petition the government, to keep and bear arms, from unreasonable searches and seizures, from self incrimination (or convicting yourself by your own testimony), right to counsel, to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, freedom from excessive bail and from cruel and unusual punishments, and more.  All of these represent not only a cornucopia of rights but also a model by which other governments measure the quality of their own approaches to building a society.

In this Thanksgiving time of year too, we are afforded the freedom to go outside and take a deep breath of cool air and think about the fullness and excitement of life.  I am especially appreciative of the value of life and of our blessings when I recount the story of a former colleague I had the honor of serving with in the Texas House of Representatives.  Now Congressman, Sam Johnson was a prisoner of war in Vietnam Nam and had been held captive in a dungeon with some other American prisoners.  He spent a considerable amount of time in this pit, I believe around five to seven years!  On Thanksgiving Day one year, the Viet Cong brought the men out of the hole to witness a "Thanksgiving Day feast": a table spread with bananas! 

Sam Johnson immediately began to laugh whereupon the Viet Cong Commander shouted at Sam Johnson saying: "Mr. Johnson, no give you permission to laugh."  Of course, Sam stopped, after which time the Viet Cong Commander told him:  "Mr. Johnson, give you permission to laugh!"  They all had a big laugh after this exchange.  But what a way to spend Thanksgiving!

My colleague expressed such humor in this story that I was touched by his resiliency and attitude.  I thought when he shared his story: I am so grateful for you and for the freedom that all the soldiers for this great country make possible for us to enjoy.  I believe today that we are so fortunate to live in the USA, breathe free and enjoy turkeys, not bananas on Thanksgiving Day.

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