From Jason Kander, via social media:
Before we all sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, I want to share a little bit about what I’m thankful for this year and tell you an important family story.
I’m thankful to be married to an absolutely unsinkable human being like Diana. Anytime I begin to get discouraged, she’s there with a pep talk that is so much more than platitudes. I’m thankful to have a three-year-old son whose biggest care in the world is making sure we read Dinosaur Train (again).
I’m thankful that I’ll see my grandfather at dinner tonight. I’m thankful that my mother, who went through surgery and chemotherapy during this campaign, and my father, who was diagnosed with ALS during my campaign for Secretary of State, will both be there too. I’m thankful for the vigorous argument my brothers and I will have tonight about the Royals’ off-season plans.
Everyone around my Thanksgiving table shares the same politics, so we don’t have those uncomfortable dinner table debates that sometimes bring down the mood or start fights. I recognize that may not be the same for you and I imagine that might take some of the fun out of this holiday. I thought I might offer a little advice about that.
Focus on how much you love your family and, also, focus on the fact that no matter what they say or do, it’s not going to stop you from working to get the country going back in the right direction. Basically, try not to let it get to you, because no one ever accomplished a goal if they let themselves lose focus and get distracted.
In that vein, and speaking of my grandfather, I want to share with you one of my favorite Kander family stories. It’s a good lesson in staying focused on what really matters.
My grandfather, Ed Kander (we all call him “Pop”) is the protagonist of this story. Here’s a fun fact about Pop: He served in northern Africa during WWII and this past Veterans Day was his 93rd birthday.
A few years after the war, Pop’s father died, and he came home to Kansas City to run the family chicken business and start a family. A short time later, when Pop and my grandmother purchased a house in Kansas City, Pop got sort of drafted into being President of the neighborhood association. Now, as Pop tells it, the job of neighborhood association President was pretty easy because, as far as he could tell, the only responsibility he had was to coach the neighborhood baseball team. My dad and my uncle played on the team and the team was decent. The only thing missing was a good shortstop, so Pop would go around asking people in the neighborhood if they knew of a kid that could play shortstop.
Later that summer, one of the families in the neighborhood moved out of the area and turned their home into an unlicensed hotel. This was against the rules of the neighborhood and had a lot of people pretty upset. It was the kind of neighborhood where kids played outside all the time and everyone was pretty uneasy about strangers coming and going at all hours.
The neighbors came to Pop and told him he needed to go to court and get the unlicensed hotel shut down. Pop was not a lawyer, and he probably didn’t want to take time away from work to fight this fight, but he took on this challenge for the good of the community.
Soon came the day of a big hearing in the case and the lawyer for the people who owned the unlicensed hotel pulled Pop aside outside the courtroom to talk.
The lawyer threatened Pop. “If you go forward with this lawsuit, you’ll probably win,” he said, “but you should know that my client has already identified a black family to sell the house to should they lose. If you move forward with this case, you’ll be responsible for letting a black family move into your neighborhood.”
I guess the lawyer was trying to threaten Pop with the one thing he thought would be more unpopular among Pop’s neighbors than the unlicensed hotel. But Pop didn’t skip a beat. He looked right at the lawyer, smiled, and asked him, “Do you happen to know if that family has a kid that can play shortstop?”
I get a chuckle every time I imagine the look on that lawyer’s face. And I get inspired every time I think about my grandfather’s resolve.
So whether it’s your family at Thanksgiving or Fox News on the TV in the waiting room at your doctor’s office, stay focused and don’t get distracted.
Have a great Thanksgiving. Today, and every other day, with warmth and love in your heart, just keep doing what you know is right and don’t let anyone or anything distract you from the path of making the world a better place.