“As Americans, we hail from every part of the world. While we observe traditions from every culture, Thanksgiving Day is a unique national tradition we all share. Its spirit binds us together as one people, each of us thankful for our common blessings.”—President Barack Obama, 2009
This week, I had the honor of giving the keynote remarks at an early Thanksgiving Day celebration with the wonderful American Women’s Club here in Stockholm. As I reflected on what I would say, I realized these words by President Obama captured perfectly the essence of what is unique about Thanksgiving and what this holiday means to me.
The spirit of Thanksgiving has been personified in my time abroad. Thanksgiving is an expression of unity and inclusion. It’s an open and extended hand to a neighbor, a seat at the table, an embracing of diversity and a focus on what brings us together as humanity not what differences we may have.
We all hail from an amazing country—The United States of America— that brings its citizens together around shared values and created traditions that focus on our diversity and human dignity. It’s a country where my parents—immigrants from Eastern Europe — could start with nothing and create a life with the best education and a beautiful home for their daughter, a first generation American. It’s a country where it’s possible and even embraced, to combine a wide variety of traditions, religions and mores and still be American. How beautiful that is! And how strong and dynamic it makes America!
I’ll never forget when President Barack Obama appeared for the first time out of Air Force One this September on a historic visit to Sweden. My eyes filled unexpectedly with tears as I realized that our President truly represented the American dream for me. He represented the hopes my immigrant parents had for me, the hopes of many single mothers and hard-working grandparents; that in our country any dream is possible. I’m so grateful for being born in a country of hope.
I’m also profoundly grateful for the sacrifices my parents made, for their hard work which has allowed me to be where I am today, for the love that my amazing husband and daughter give me, and the for Embassy community here in Sweden where we share such great mutual support, generosity and respect.
This Thanksgiving I’ll give thanks for this community and especially for the United States Marines who protect this Embassy. Mark and I have shared a Thanksgiving table with the U.S. Marines here in the past, and it was a humbling and fantastic experience that I know both of us will cherish. Their strength and personal sacrifice gives us all strength.
A special thanks to the American Women’s Club for allowing me to express these sentiments to you. Women are often the ones who carry long-held traditions within their families and take them across oceans and borders to new lands and homes away from home. The American women in Stockholm work so hard to protect and convey our many great American traditions. And this week we shared the most beautiful Thanksgiving meal together, as sisters, and I was so happy to be a part of it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! Warmest wishes on this day to all of our friends in this Embassy community, in Sweden and back home!