In the United States, our Thanksgiving holiday is one of the most special times of the year, a day set aside for sharing and giving thanks together with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Wherever we are, Thanksgiving is a time to open our hearts and our tables to people who make a difference in our lives.
This year, we have had to suspend many of the traditions associated with Thanksgiving – large gatherings with loved ones to partake in turkey dinners, games of American touch football, Thanksgiving Day races and walks, and the simple joy of getting together. But there is still one tradition that COVID-19 pandemic cannot take from us: expressing our gratitude for the blessings and joys of the year, even—especially—in a time of such an unprecedented crisis.
Despite the fact that we cannot meet in person, we can collect around the virtual communal table and express our individual and collective thanks. I would like to offer up some of mine:
- First and foremost, I am grateful for my family, my husband and unwavering partner in service here in Skopje, our relentlessly cheerful Moxie, and our friends who follow and support our diplomatic efforts from the United States and around the world.
- I am equally grateful to be representing the United States in a country that has nurtured a long-standing partnership through challenging times. The year has been marked by many victories that have been obscured by the coronavirus headlines: NATO membership; safe, peaceful elections leading to the speedy formation of a new government; and the positive recommendation of the EU to invite your country to begin accession negotiations. And despite our disappointment over the current issues with Bulgaria, we expect these will be resolved and that North Macedonia will advance on its EU path.
- I am grateful for our Embassy’s diplomatic and international partners, with whom we have worked to help this country realize its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Long-term peace, stability, and prosperity throughout the region is our shared interest.
- I am grateful—as we all are—for everyone who is working to manage this virus and its impact on our lives, from the dedicated medical personnel tending to the ill to the teachers who are working tirelessly to ensure children continue to get an education.
- I am grateful the United States has been able to provide assistance to your country, and that we have been able to work so closely together to continue moving forward on so many initiatives despite the current conditions. And I am grateful for the close partnerships we have forged with the government’s health officials, volunteer organizations and the Red Cross here.
- I am grateful for our Peace Corps Volunteers, who, having returned home early this year, still found ways to help people and to continue their connections with this country, even from afar.
- I am grateful for the youth of this country, whose resilience inspires me and gives us all hope for the future of this country.
- I am grateful for re-learning the importance of solidarity, discovering new skill sets, and understanding what brings us together. Nearly everyone on this planet now has a shared experience in the impact of COVID-19. It is common threads like these that bring people together, help us empathize with one another, and promote better understanding. What better legacy could there be from this challenging year.
- As an American, I am grateful for our democracy, and for our commitment to working towards a more perfect union. Democracy is not always easy or perfect, and it can be messy, but there is no replacement for a system of participatory government.
- And above all, I am thankful to be part of a U.S. Embassy team that represents the geographic, ethnic, and creative diversity of the United States and North Macedonia, and that remains committed to building an even stronger and more productive partnership between our two countries.
This year’s challenges changed many of our routines, practices and behaviors, but it did not diminish the momentum for progress. If anything, it only reaffirmed our dedication to our task. May we learn the lessons of this year, grow stronger from the challenges we have faced, and make 2021 a year of renewed opening, optimism, and promise.
Kate Marie Byrnes