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Celebrating Detroit Gratitude This Thanksgiving

From: Huffington Post Detroit

By: Patrick O’Connor 

November 25, 2014

This Thanksgiving seems to be falling in a greater circle of tumult than others, making it hard to appreciate all the good that’s happened, when world events suggest there is so much more good that needs to be done. That said, hope is the seed of possibilities that ultimately bears fruit and changes lives, so here’s my gratitude list for Thanksgiving 2014.

1. I’m glad my city gets a new chance. Last year, Detroit’s future was clouded by mega creditors who weren’t giving an inch, pensioners who were looking at getting nothing for 30 years of labor, and a Detroit Institute of Arts with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. Bankruptcy isn’t over yet, but the new birth of the city that arises from the ashes is now a matter of steps away, not a matter of chance — and it leaves money for streetlights, road repair and more.

2. I’m glad that chance isn’t a free ride. Detroit’s financial downfall was created in part by dwindling population and a bad economy, but better leadership at all levels could have steered us to safer shores in the first place. The settlement eases our fiscal responsibility, but not our ability to lead; it’s time to let go of the politics of the past and shape policies that are about us, and not just our own.

3. I’m glad college is free for Detroit high school graduates. It’s been two years since the Detroit Regional Chamber first offered to pay for the first two years of college for any Detroit resident who graduated from any Detroit high school. Thousands of students have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity, but thousands more could. Let’s hope the Chamber keeps this program alive, and that every Detroit student that wants technical training or a college education applies to the program.

4. I’m glad Midtown is a place to be. The growth and renewal of this vital part of Detroit has been ongoing, but this is the first year I remember dozens of my students making Midtown the place they work or live. Here’s to greater growth in all parts of the city.

5. I’m glad the Tigers made the playoffs again. It’s true they didn’t stay long, and winning the Central Division by 12 games would have been better, but their style of play made us all pay attention.

6. I’m glad Detroit has two more Freedom honorees. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian award, and only about 10 are given every year. Stevie Wonder may have been born in Saginaw, and John Dingell may represent citizens west of the city, but their work has done Detroit proud, as did their recognition at the White House recently.

7. I’m glad Gordie Howe is still with us. Hockey isn’t everyone’s sport, but when you consider that Gordie Howe’s professional career spanned five different decades, you can’t help but offer respect. His recovery in Houston is tenuous, but you don’t play hockey for over 40 years without a few miracles coming your way. Here’s to one more.

8. I’m glad Detroiters care for each other. In addition to the Chamber’s offer for free college, there are huge food banks that feed the hungry and places like Alternatives for Girls that offer young people a better life than the one they would find on the streets. The visionaries who lead these efforts understand that unless everyone makes progress, no one does; we owe them more than money, but donations would surely help.

9. I’m glad we’re playing the Bears Thursday. The last two Lions games show we aren’t among the league’s elite, but Thursday’s game gives us a chance to show the lessons we’ve learned from being schooled the last two Sundays. Let’s hope we get an A, and make the playoffs.

10. I’m glad to call myself a Detroiter. Born in the city and raised by two parents who were lifelong residents, I had the good fortune of being raised in a neighborhood where your kid was everybody’s kid, and the only time you bragged about anything was when you drove a new car home you paid cash for. A strong work ethic and keeping an eye out for one another are the foundation of a good life, and I’m grateful the city gave me both.