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John Hughes: Give thanks for bravery, technology, freedom

Observing a world sometimes beset by strife and violence, I've made it a practice to give thanks each Thanksgiving for trends or events or people in that world for which we should be grateful.

Here's my 10-point list for 2005:

1. Brave young men and women soldiers who are willing to place themselves in harm's way in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to offer them the opportunity for freedom from tyranny.

2. Brave Iraqis who will stand up to suicide bombers and other terrorists on Dec. 15 and cast their votes in a free election for parliamentarians. Americans and other outsiders have given them the opportunity, but it is Iraqis who must seize it and set their country on a democratic path.

3. Brave opponents of repression in Islamic countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria, in part motivated by what is happening in Iraq to challenge existing regimes and demand reforms.

4. In the United States, an extraordinarily resilient economy that remains strong in the face of recessions, hurricane disasters like Katrina and Rita, and a costly war in Iraq.

5. Churches, commercial companies and individuals who open their hearts and purses to spend millions of dollars caring for victims of tsunamis and hurricanes and rehabilitating them.

6. Astounding developments in technology emerging at a breathtaking pace for the benefits of mankind. Given what has happened in my own lifetime in the fields of communication and transportation alone, I tell today's 20-year-olds that the impact of new technology in their lifetimes is incomprehensible to imagine.

7. Arising awareness that continuing modernization and development will demand new methods to conserve energy. As fast-growing countries like India and China sop up the world's oil, Americans must embrace more fuel-efficient cars and develop alternative sources of energy.

8. A shift by the United States away from unilateralism toward multilateralism. The relative loneliness of the United States in Iraq has underlined the need for cooperation with other nations on specific issues and initiatives. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, clearly with the approval of President Bush, is cultivating alliances with European powers, and nations like Russia and China, as these coalitions seek collectively to curb the nuclear weapons ambitions of North Korea and Iran. There is even recognition of the helpful role that international organizations like NATO and the United Nations can sometimes play.

9. Corporate executives who have bilked their shareholders by diverting millions of dollars of profit for personal gain have paid severe penalties in fines and imprisonment, thus hopefully setting the stage for higher ethical conduct in the upper ranks of the private sector.

10. Finally, we can all be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy that are nonexistent in some other parts of the world. We may take freedom to follow our respective religious faiths as we will as a matter of course. We may exercise freedom of speech as a given, affording us the right to speak out against our government, our leaders, our politicians. We assume it is normal to travel in our own country without documents and identity cards. We consider it a given right to change jobs and professions without having to gain permission from some bureaucrat. Yet such basic freedoms are unknown, or carefully regulated, and subject to severe punishment if contravened, in various other countries.

In a world overladen with the dark shadows of conflict and disharmony, it is well to remember the goodness, generosity and idealism that pervades much of mankind, and the freedoms that some of us enjoy and seek to extend to those yet to achieve them.

(Finally a note of apology to those readers who wrote to correct a misstatement in my column last week. In referring to Plymouth, Mass., I said it was the site of the first European settlement in America in 1620, thereby overlooking the settlement of Jamestown, Va., some years earlier. I should, of course, have called it the first European settlement in New England.)

John Hughes is editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret Morning News. He is a former editor of the Christian Science Monitor, which syndicates this column. E-mail: