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One group of people who deserve an extra serving of gratitude this Thanksgiving Day is our veterans. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, and it is appropriate that this important recognition comes so close to Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all Deseret News readers enjoy a wonderful holiday with family, friends and loved ones. In our busy, tumultuous and politically polarized world, it is more important than ever to take some time to reflect on the great blessings we enjoy individually, as families, as members of our communities, as Utahns and as Americans.

I appreciate those Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans who shared an autumn harvest feast nearly 400 years ago, in 1621, demonstrating the importance of gratitude since the very beginning of our nation. I appreciate the nation’s early presidents who proclaimed periodic days of thanks and President Abraham Lincoln, who decreed a permanent national Thanksgiving Day to be observed each November.

Someone once said that gratitude is a “gateway” virtue that leads to other positive character traits. It is really impossible to have a happy life without having an attitude of gratitude.

In this era of the 24-7 news cycle and ubiquitous social media, where every problem, scandal and disaster from anywhere in the world is broadcast and magnified, it’s easy to become pessimistic and negative, fretting that society is in rapid decline.

In reality, the opposite is true. The country and world certainly face plenty of challenges, but the truth is that, with perhaps a few exceptions recorded in religious scripture, this is the best time in history to be alive and to raise a family. Today, there is less poverty, more opportunity, more safety and more equality than any other time in our nation’s history.

Today we live longer; have fewer health problems; are less likely to die by violence, in accidents, or in war than ever before. We enjoy more material goods; life is more convenient; we are cleaning up our air and water, and arts, cultural activities and entertainment options are more abundant than ever.

Even our responses to our weaknesses show we are making progress. The fact that we are working hard on such difficult challenges as race relations, sexual harassment, homelessness and the environment is a testament to how far we have come. In the past, when people were more consumed with the basic needs of food, shelter and warmth, these matters were a much lower priority in society.

One group of people who deserve an extra serving of gratitude this Thanksgiving Day is our veterans. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, and it is appropriate that this important recognition comes so close to Thanksgiving Day.

Each time I rise to salute our flag or sing our national anthem, I am reminded of the service and sacrifice of those who serve (and have served) in our armed forces. While our gratitude and love can in no way equal the magnitude of their sacrifice, we can honor their service by remembering and acknowledging their contributions.

Across its various divisions, Zions Bank employs many currently serving guardsmen and reservists and many veterans and their families, representing all four branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines). Over the years, many military members of our Zions Bank family have deployed on active duty.

Melvin Laird said: “Our servicemen and women shoulder the burden of defense as one of the responsibilities of citizenship in this free country. Having participated in protecting our rights and having met oppression on the battlefields of the world, they are able to appreciate and savor the blessings of citizenship in the country they serve.”

To the men, women and families who serve our great nation, thank you for your commitment, dedication and sacrifices. We appreciate you this Thanksgiving Day, and always.