It’s rare anymore that I get to actually have a long conversation with my son. But on Christmas Eve, Kara and I drove around with Brett looking at Christmas lights. Kara mentioned that it didn’t really feel like Christmas this year – whether it was the warmer weather, the fact that Brett is a driver, or just the negative news that we happen to read every day pounding on us daily like waves against a beach.Brett asked why the news was so negative. I remember back to high school and I didn’t really follow any current events, so with that in mind, I tried to capsulize the last couple of years in five minutes or less. I probably failed miserably, but it started by talking about the two parties in our country. One that generally likes a smaller government, and one that likes a larger one. Pretty simple idea. From there, I tried to make linkages to why the government was currently shutdown. Like I said, that’s a lot to incorporate into five minutes. But I think Brett walked away with an appreciation for both “sides” in what’s going on today and why, at least a little, it felt a little less like Christmas.
Then, as we were heading to bed, I read about our President taking calls on the Santa hotline answering the call from a seven year old challenging if he still believes, “because at 7, it’s marginal, right?”
This was exactly what I needed to hear from my President on Christmas Eve. So I called my son begrudgingly back upstairs for one more five minute lecture… This is what I tried to tell him:
Brett, despite what you hear and what you read. Despite all of the negative, you are still among the luckiest humans on the planet at any time in history. You live under a roof and have food on your table. You live in an age of technology beyond any possible explanation. Despite who the President is, or who is our Mayor or Governor, despite whether the stock market is up or down, and despite what anyone tells you to the contrary, Brett, you live in the greatest country in history.
And the reason for this is simple… You have the freedom to believe in the marginal. You have the freedom to believe in the unlikely. You have the freedom to root for the underdog.
America is the country where you literally can pull yourself up by your bootstraps – despite the overwhelming challenges you will face – and make anything you want of yourself. At sixteen, this cannot be stressed enough. Your entire life is in front of you, and everything is possible. America has done that for you. Not the President. Not the economy. Not any tariff or treaty. America is the freest country in the world and the sky is the limit to believe in yourself.
And here’s the part that’s hard to get your head around – you likely won’t reach all of your dreams and goals. You may not play in the Major Leagues. You may not become a Fortune 500 CEO. You may not play for the Boston Pops (ok, that last one was my dream.)
**But you need to believe that you can.** The hope of things getting better is what drives this country and what should drive you. Hope in the marginal, the unlikely, and the impossible is what makes this country great.
It is through that marginal belief that innovations were created. The cotton gin. The printing press. The Internet. The space shuttle. All ideas that would have died if their inventors stopped at marginal.
Sometimes you need a guy making fun of you and your beliefs to know that you’re believing in the right things – whether that thing is Santa Claus, your career, or the hope that the country can repair itself.
Yes, Virginia, you can marginally believe in whatever you want, and that marginal belief makes this country great.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.