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ROGER ROSENBLATT: Thanks, first of all, for this holiday– nearly everyone’s favorite– because I can express thanks to you, in whom I believe, and others can thank a different you, or no you at all. They can be thankful in the abstract. I thank you for a country in which one may be thankful in the abstract, and may believe in you or not with equal comfort.
So, I thank you, as well, for a country in which one doesn’t have to be right about you or your desires, especially since we have just been attacked by people who are deadly certain that they know what you want. As for September 11, thank you for what you showed us about us on that terrible day and in the days since.
Courage is one of those attributes that does not evidence itself until invoked, so it was heartening to see what most people were made of. I’m not only thinking of the acts of bravery and self- sacrifice, the gestures of sympathy and generosity, the dignity exhibited in the face of a loss of innocence.
But thank you, too, for the courage it takes to return to innocence, to normality; to have foraged for pumpkins in a field for Halloween; to have worked ourselves into a lather about the World Series; even to summon the energy to gear up for the Christmas season.
The beauty of the country shows itself in extraordinary moments in a menacing time, and it also shows itself in the ordinary life. Thank you for the continuity of marriages, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, school days, movie-going, strolls, gossip, births. Thank you very much for births.
SINGER: We’re starting out a brand new day turn the clock to zero…
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Thank you for music– for sting’s music, and Tracy Chapman’s, and the indigo girls. Some folks complain that they’ve heard too much of Ray Charles and “America the Beautiful” these days– not I.
RAY CHARLES: America ooh, America…
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Thanks for that. And for the laughs– Mel Brooks, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Margaret Cho, Steven Wright, Will Farrell. Thanks for the belly laughs, especially now.
Thanks for new theater– Alan Alda in “QED”; John Guare’s new play based on the sweet smell of success; Kathleen Turner as Tallulah. Thank you for giving us the name Tallulah. Thanks for the poetry, for the serious comedy of U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and poems like “Forgetfulness.” “The name of the author is the first to go, followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel, which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of.” Thanks for allowing me to remember that one.
Thank you for the tough loveliness of the people of my hometown of New York City, walking the streets that are still coated with ash and dust after the September 11 attacks, the air still foul; still walking, striding, as New Yorkers tend to do; still tucked away in their apartments, their sweet and difficult lives that are separate and together, in the city that is the great architectural symbol of the country. Oh, how I thank you for New York.
SINGING: Oh, beautiful for spacious skies…
ROGER ROSENBLATT: And just so you don’t think me too sentimental or high- minded on this holiday, thank you most particularly for the leg and the thigh and the stuffing and the gravy and the cider and the celery and the cranberry sauce and the turnips- – sort of– and the squash– sort of– and the corn and the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes; yes, the sweet potatoes, with marshmallows on top.
SINGING: Well, now, wait a minute I’m talking about America sweet America you know God done shed his grace on thee…
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I’m Roger Rosenblatt.