It is at about this time every year when people begin to give thought to things they tend to take for granted. While friends, family and a home are all worthy of gratitude, it is important to also consider what makes it possible for us to have those things and live our lives the way we do: the American ideal of freedom.
In light of President Obama’s recent trip through Southeast Asia, it is important to appreciate what it means to live in a democratic society. His travels through Myanmar and Cambodia served as a somber reminder that not everyone across the world enjoys the liberties that we often take for granted here at home.
In Myanmar, President Obama was greeted by diverse and bright-eyed supporters who saw him as an inspirational symbol of democracy. Although the first visit by a serving U.S. president to the transitioning country was a positive sign, its troubling past provided undertones of uneasiness as Obama urged Myanmar to remain on the course towards democracy and freedom for all its people. In Cambodia, the president was met with a less favorable reception–aides characterized the meeting between Obama and Cambodian leaders as “tense,” in a visit that displayed the unfortunate reality of governments that remain reluctant to champion human rights and improve the poor conditions their citizens are forced to endure.
The current unrest in the Middle East is yet another stark contrast to the comfort we enjoy without second thought here in America. As other people around the world struggle for basic freedoms such as having a voice in their government and a safe place to call home, it is important to be thankful for the fact that, as citizens of the United States of America, we can trust that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will always be guaranteed.
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