AP
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, first lady Edith Bolling Wilson, smile in this undated photo.

SALT LAKE CITY — A century ago, President Woodrow Wilson issued a Thanksgiving proclamation that focused on the blessings of peace. If you know your history, World War I had ended only a few days earlier.

He characterized the war as “a righteous cause” and added this hopeful note: “We have cause for such rejoicing as revives and strengthens in us all the best traditions of our national history.”

Those “best traditions” have been on my mind lately. You may wonder, given the nasty tone of politics, whether they persist a century later. I would argue they do, which is why I offer the following few things for which I’m thankful this season:

The tradition of honoring democracy — Utah’s 4th Congressional District race this year was about as tight as the proverbial new pair of dress shoes on a rainy day. At times, it seemed as if ballots were being transported via a stubborn burro from the polls to counting locations, and we all had to deal with news reports that variously had one candidate, then the other, taking a narrow lead.

McAdams won by a margin barely wide enough to avoid a recount. I can predict one thing with confidence. People generally will accept the outcome.

That’s how it is on a national level, and it’s how it is locally. No one riots. No one storms the halls of government. What is remarkable is how unremarkable this handling of power has come to seem for Americans.

We hear a lot these days about elections being rigged, or about Russians or foreign operatives trying to influence the vote. Few things are more important to safeguard than the general public acceptance of the integrity of the democratic process. Losing that would unravel authority, lead to civil unrest, coups and lots of things that might threaten your Thanksgiving Day tranquility. Ultimately, it would harm all basic rights, including the freedom to worship and speak freely.

The rule of law — One of the biggest local stories this year involved the start of an Inland Port Authority in Salt Lake City. The law establishing the authority said no one on the board could own property, other than a personal residence, within 5 miles of the port’s boundaries.

That led to the resignations of two board members, including House Speaker Greg Hughes. This was just one example of many where laws are bigger than people, no matter how powerful, and we should be thankful it is so.

Public servants who work hard — While House Speaker Hughes may have hit a snag with the inland port, his work on helping the state’s homeless cannot be ignored. Hughes and other leaders have led a multijurisdictional effort to clean the crime-ridden area near the Road Home shelter on Rio Grande Street and establish three new shelters around Salt Lake County.

I haven’t always agreed with their plans, but it’s hard to quibble with their intent. They changed the scope of homelessness here from a Salt Lake City problem to a statewide problem, which gives us a more accurate view of the least fortunate among us.

Next year, the plan will hit a critical stage as the Road Home is scheduled to close and the new shelters to open. A cynic would say politicians are interested only in padding their resumes for the next election. A better choice is to be grateful those politicians are finally turning their attention toward those who suffer, and that includes not only the homeless but the business owners who have endured years of crime and disruptions around the old shelter.

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Over the river and through the woods … Travel experts predict 54 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles this weekend to celebrate the holiday. That means two good things. First, these are prosperous times and people are blessed with the means to travel freely. Second, family still matters. Americans will gather with those they love and focus on giving thanks. As long as they carry on that tradition, there is hope for all the nation’s ills.

It may be hard to imagine what life was like a century ago, with many people mourning the war dead and others battling a deadly influenza pandemic at home. But we should feel thankful that those “best traditions” Wilson spoke of in those difficult times endure.