In the midst of profound challenges — national and international, personal and social, practical and philosophical — I pause to give thanks.
I give thanks that the original ambitions of al-Qaida have been fractured, diminished, and are being pushed to the periphery.
I give thanks for the substantial recovery of New Orleans, the Gulf, Joplin, Tohoku, the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Long Island and in this very moment the Visayas. For the extraordinary creativity of the human spirit, I give thanks. For the deep resilience of biological systems, I give thanks.
I give thanks that the men and women involved in air and ground transportation have demonstrated the potential of science and thoughtful design to engineer systems that over time substantially reduce risk of death, injury, and destruction. May we seek to apply their lessons elsewhere.
Especially during these days of intense holiday travel, I give thanks for the polite, patient, and professional demeanor of the vast majority of TSA officers.
As I consider the extraordinary bounty of a beautiful world offered for my pleasure (often at an amazingly low price), I give thanks to the professionals at Customs and Border Protection and ICE.
For blueberries, raspberries and so-sweet clementines in bleak mid-winter, I pause in childlike wonder and thanksgiving.
Inspired by the hope and hard work of the newest Americans, I give thanks to the men and women of USCIS and their work to preserve and protect this nation of immigrants.
For Abdellilah, Annick, and Bahija, Arash, Jonathan, and Tessa, Vino, Shekar, and Toyoka, I give thanks.
I give particular thanks to live in a nation where the ballot is sacred and — with all our current frustrations — elections matter more than guns. So I give thanks to the Secret Service as guardians of our collective choice.
For all my old friends at FEMA I daily give thanks. You are expected to do much more than you are authorized, funded, or organized to do. Yet most of you — most days — do the very best you can with the burden, threat, and opportunity of these extravagant expectations.
For my new friends at SPAR, I admire your intelligence, insight, and ambition, your confidence that the elephant can yet learn to dance. I give thanks for practical idealism and tough-minded optimism.
As a collective the men and women of the United States Coast Guard are the most consistently competent, capable, creative, caring, and courageous I have ever personally encountered. You give me hope that large organizations are able to combine command-and-control with actual thinking and meaningful, mindful action. Thank you for your challenging contrarian model.
I don’t know many from NPPD, I&A, S&T, and other DHS components. I only have the broadest notions of what you do. But thank you. To say much more would probably seem gratuitous (which once meant to express gratitude, but has morphed).
Over the last decade (and a bit more) my life has been enriched to work in homeland security. There are so many state and local officials, so many private sector executives, so many neighbors caring about neighbors who have inspired and taught me so much.
It is also true there are too few Jocks and not nearly enough Leonas.
Chris Bellavita can seem a lonely archangel luminous in pure thought and flames of complex kinosis raising a bright sword to inspire a righteous but worried and rather absent-minded angelic host. Those gathered about him at times seeming much more Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, than Michael or Gabriel golden and glorious. Yet the archangel persists in loving and leading them.
And please remember, Clarence got the job done.
There are too few Teds, Jennifers, Janets, Patrices and Davids. Each a plural because beside you stand others — still too few — but a remnant that may in the end be sufficient, just enough to see us through.
Working with each of you has been a constantly unfolding blessing. Thank you.
There are days that I decide we are — at least I am — doomed, not merely to death (which is not for me a particular cause of dread) but to futile floundering, missed opportunities, and stupid self-limiting selfishness.
But then Ellen or Angela or Ryan — Tuesday it was Maybelle — someone my children’s age, demonstrates such keen intelligence, strategic insight, and willingness to work that I am reassured that strings of mindfulness still stretch over the frets of this species’ long neck. We are instruments capable of great beauty.
Thank you, each of you, for your music.