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Conservatism as gratitude and 10 things for which I am grateful


Bereft of thanks, there is little worth conserving...

Giancarlo Sopo and wife (Giancarlo Sopo /TheBlaze)

It is difficult to imagine a more consequential virtue in conservatism than gratitude. Bereft of thanks, little is worth conserving, but the prudence to recognize our treasures, combined with the development of honorable means to protect them, not only makes for a better kind of politics, it can enrich our lives.

The importance of this sentiment was clear to the late conservative icon, William F. Buckley Jr., who noted in a tribute to Thanksgiving how we all carry a great debt for life's gifts that can never be requited. "[A] country — a civilization — that gives us such gifts as we dispose of cannot be repaid in kind," he said.

"The gift repaid in roughly equivalent tender is corrupted. It ceases to be a gift, and the philanthropic impulse is traduced. The unrequited gift is, in Burke's phrase, one of the unbought graces of life," Buckley added. Instead, the best we can do to honor God, our country, our families, and the dead for their gifts is to live in a state of gratitude. "Our offense is that of the Westerner who accepts without any thought the patrimony we all enjoy."

In a stirring passage, the legendary founder of National Review enumerated some of our heirlooms that can never be repaid.

We cannot hope to repay in kind what Socrates gave us, but to live without any sense of obligation to those who made possible lives as tolerable as ours, within the frame of the human predicament God imposed on us — without any sense of gratitude to our parents, who suffered to raise us; to our teachers, who labored to teach us; to the scientists, who prolonged the lives of our children when disease struck them down — is spiritually atrophying.

We cannot repay in kind the gift of the Beatitudes, with their eternal, searing meaning — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But our ongoing failure to recognize that we owe a huge debt that can be requited only by gratitude — defined here as appreciation, however rendered, of the best that we have, and a determined effort to protect and cherish it — our failure here marks us as the masses in revolt; in revolt against our benefactors, our civilization, against God himself.
Accordingly, perhaps there is no holiday more ennobling than Thanksgiving because it calls upon us to recognize God's grace. Certainly, I have more blessings than I deserve. Here are some of them:
  1. God, family, the love of my life and old friends: What would life be without any these blessings? They precede all other gifts and are a source of holiness, love, and purpose. I am grateful for my parents and sisters, and especially for Hailenys, the love of my life. She makes me a better man and is the only person I know who can light up a room with just her smile. Thank you also to old friends for the company and laughs along this journey we call life
  2. America and my abuelos: I could not possibly list everything about America that inspires gratitude in me, so I will just leave it at this: Thank you to my abuelos (grandparents) for deciding to flee Cuba to live in freedom. They are no longer with me, but I thank God every day for the time we spent together. I do not think I could never thank them enough for their selflessness, sacrifices, and the choices they made that resulted in me being born in the greatest country in history, cloaked in the blessings of its founding documents and the efforts of all who have advanced the cause of liberty
  3. My readers and critics: Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read what I write, including my critics. You guys push me to be better and bring great joy to my life.
  4. New friendships: My political maturation would not have been possible without a group of friends who welcomed me into the conservative movement with open arms. Thank you to writer Jeremy Frankel, Lone Conservative's Kassy Dillon, Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation, and the Daily Wire's Josh Hammer who have been incredibly generous with their time and patiently answered my questions. Also, a big thank you to Señia Villarreal for your kindness, friendship, and hanging out with us in L.A.
  5. John Paul and our students: I met my dear friend and mentor John Paul Rollert in 2002 and my life has been better for it since. He is one of the most decent and kindest people I know. Our friendship is a true blessing. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity he gave me to join him as a TA at Harvard Summer School this year and for the students in our class.
  6. National Review Institute: Thank you to NRI for enriching my life through its Regional Fellowship program, especially to Lynn Gibson, Lathan Watts, and Francisco Gonzalez. I am also grateful for the men and women of my cohort who accompanied me in this course, and to Buckley himself for his brilliance and founding NRI.
  7. The people I watch and read: I am grateful for the work of Yuval Levin, Jonah Goldberg, George Will, the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry, Rich Lowry, Alexandra Desanctis, National Affairs, Ramesh Ponnuru, Sohrab Ahmari, Erick Erickson, Jim Geraghty, David French, Charles C.W. Cooke, Ross Douthat, and my colleagues at TheBlaze for helping me make sense of the world around us. Thank you to the Daily Wire team for the laughs and keeping me informed, especially Michael Knowles, Andrew Klavan, Matt Walsh, Elisha Krauss, Jeremy Boreing, and Ben Shapiro for your talents and kindness. I'm also grateful for Noah Smith, Ezra Klein, Jane Coaston, Sean Illing, and all who help me understand different perspectives.
  8. The opportunity to work: Thank you to my employer and the people I work with inspire me to get up every morning. This includes the team at TheBlaze. I am grateful forLeon Wolf, Tyler Cardon, and Glenn Beck for this opportunity. Thank you to Samantha Sullivan for making it possible; Sara Gonzales, and Stu Burguiere for allowing me to join them on theirshow; and to Sarah and Kay from the studio staff. I'm also thankful for my editors at other publications where I write, including Teddy Kupfer at National Review; Ben Domenech, Joy Pullman, and Kylee Zempel at The Federalist; Josh Hammer at the Daily Wire; and Kelsey Bloom of USA Today.
  9. Blessings of faith: I owe St. Paul's letters, St. Matthew's Beatitudes, and St. Augustine's Confessions (I'm almost done with them John Paul) a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. I am also grateful for the work of Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire, Brother Michael Brady of Columbus High School, and my church for supporting my spiritual life.
  10. Miami: Finally, I am grateful for my hometown of Miami and, to paraphrase Buckley, the wellspring of human goodness that has given it leaders, and me friends, like Dave Lawrence, Saif Ishoof, Mayor Francis Suarez, Emilio Gonzalez, Natalia Martinez, Jorge Mas, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, Diana Arteaga and all the honorable men and women (too many to list) who labor in anonymity andmake me proud to call South Florida my home, no matter where I live.

That said, this is a terribly incomplete list, as I could rightfully include the gifts of baseball (this needs no explanation), autumn in the Shenandoah Valley, my high school teachers, the people of Texas, Walt Disney's imagination, the simple pleasure of abuelo's guava and cream cheese slices on Cuban crackers, and Sinatra's rendition of “Corcovado" among a list of treasures of immeasurable value to me. This is merely a starting point and a reminder that I, too, need to do a better job at showing thanks. Indeed, let us all honor each other, our families, our country, its traditions, the lives of those who came before us, and God by living in gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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