Soldier Oh: Being Thankful that my country is not my jail cell


We live in the greatest country in the world.


It is not perfect.

We have deep flaws.

Our nation’s history is complete with failures and outrages that we can never forget.

Still, as we continue to evolve into the nation we want to be there can be no doubt that we are still a nation where the vast majority of us want to be.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America I hope we can find a way to appreciate that being an American is more than a statement of where you live, were born or chose to become a citizen.

The country we live in – and what it is we want it to be – what it can be – is a reflection of our own values and what we are prepared to do to make it the best nation it can possibly be for everyone who is an American.

There’s no shortage of ways we can do that.

We have a voice.  All of us.  Some voices are louder than others.  Others find their voice in action rather than words.

Make America a better place by giving back in some way.

Volunteer.  Run for office.  Help someone be successful with their business.  Pick up trash.  Rake a neighbor’s yard.  Protest at a rally.  Write a letter to the editor.  Vote.  Don’t vote.

As each of us moves along our daily life in the United States it is easy to find the areas we want to be better and where we can criticize our country for not being better.

Sam Rayburn once said “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

It was true before he said it, and it has been true every single day since he said it.

America needs fewer of us to kick down the barn and more of us willing to build one.

I am often struck by those in social media or those who I bump into along the way of life who wring their hands and proclaim I want to make a difference but I don’t know how to do it.”

One thing is for certainYou won’t make any difference just by saying you want to make a difference.

No person found a clean bed, a warm meal or a safe place to sleep because somebody said they wanted to make a difference.

Nobody earned the right to vote, the right to protest or the freedom to marry because a bunch of folks sat at the bar and talked about how much they wanted to do something but they just hadn’t figured out how to get around to doing it.

There’s not a single Facebook post or Tweet – no matter how clever, biting, sarcastic or vicious – that stopped a dictator, fed a starving baby or helped to prevent disease.

This Thanksgiving Day if you are having trouble finding some reason to be thankful and grateful for being an American I’d like you to think of a young 24-year old North Korean soldier named – Oh.

A young man so focused on seeking his freedom he literally made a choice between freedom or death in fleeing North Korea.

This video from CNN: should be required viewing in your home this Thanksgiving Day.

I cannot conceive being forced to remain in a nation that has become nothing more than a jail cell for doing nothing more than being born into it.

Think about that:  Your country is your jail cell.

My country is not my jail cell.

It is neither perfect or close to being perfect.

It is, though, a country I know that, time and time again, has found a way to rise above its mistakes to become a better place for Americans – and others around the world.

We have much to be thankful for in America.

We have much work to do to make America a better place.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.

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