I had lunch with a dear friend yesterday. A distinguished physician, he's now in his mid 80s, debilitated by a chronic progressive disease, and frail. He's had a rich life full of joy and the dignity of work deeply honorable, but marked also by most terrible loss. I've never seen his innate gentleness desert him. With limited mobility, he spends his time reading. "I can accept the loss of my body," he said to me. "As long as I have my mind I am OK." He doesn't feel sorry for himself or unsettled by his affliction. "I feel lucky for the life I've had. I feel lucky to have been born in this place and time."
To that I simply say "Amen." I remind myself of this regularly. I marvel at our nation's endless resilience, its enduring optimism (yes, I said that), it's refusal to remain complacent, its insistence, however uneven, however long it takes, on correcting its mistakes, of moving ever fitfully toward the betterment of all its citizens. As a member of a once scorned, now deeply privileged minority I have experienced this up close. If my immigrant ancestors had not fled the shtetl, I wouldn't have had the life I've had. I wouldn't have any life at all.
So here's a hearty Happy Birthday to our exceptional nation. Exceptional not so much for what we are as what we strive to be.