Thanksgiving historically traces back to 1621 when the Pilgrims had their first successful harvest and signified that they would be able to make it through the winter. Of the 102 Pilgrims who embarked on the journey, Thanksgiving signified that for the remaining 50 they would survive to build for themselves and those to come a future than they had previously only dreamed of.
In 1789, George Washington made the first proclamation of Thanksgiving by the national government as a day to reflect on the sacrifice of those who lost their lives creating the country that so many of us call home. In 1863, during the intensity of the Civil War Lincoln finally made Thanksgiving a national holiday noting the solidarity that Americans had in preserving the values of freedom. These proclamations of thanksgiving signified the great sacrifices that generations before us have made so that we can live the lives we do today. Thanksgiving still is a time of celebration but the focus on generations before us diminishes with each passing year.
Uganda does not have an equivalent to our Thanksgiving. In fact they have very few national holidays of their own. Much of this is because of the simple reality that there has not been much to celebrate since Uganda has become a nation of its own. Uganda is still trying to build for itself a future that generations to come can be thankful for. The country is not the dark place it once was but it is still getting its feet under itself each and every day.
The upcoming national election in 2016 is expected to see a change in Presidency for the first time since the 1980s when President Museveni first took control by military force. The country has prospered of late but people still live in fear of instability around the corner. It is easy to be optimistic about Uganda and most of Africa once you are here, meet the people, and see the opportunity that exists. But it would be naïve to think that the rug can’t be pulled out from under the country in the near future.
The only United States that myself and my generation know is the United States that is the most prosperous and dominant country in the world. It is easy to think that the US has always been that way and will continue to be that way because that is all I have seen with my own eyes. Yet it is a luxury that so few on this planet have been able to enjoy. A luxury that our parents, grandparents, and relatives we have never met built for us.
The American Dream does not have to be unique to America. Those of us in Uganda and around the world in less fortunate areas wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think the future we grew up in can’t be replicated elsewhere. But wherever we are we should never lose sight of what those who have come before us have done on our behalf. I pray that Uganda can one day have a day where they can be truly proud of the future they have secured for themselves and generations to come but I also pray that we don’t lose sight of the reason why we do have Thanksgiving in the US because the consequences will reverberate not only within our own generation but generations to come.