Permanent Value

Happy Thanksgiving

Nathaniel Ritchison
November 26th, 2008

GIVING THANKS IN 2008…for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.  It’s only natural when your world is going through transformations, as we are right now, to have difficulty understanding, let alone appreciate the changes we’re experiencing.  Which is why I want to take a moment during this American holiday of giving thanks, and share with you my appreciation for what we’ve been able to make it through, where we are now, and the direction I see us heading.

We are a country that overcomes challenges and thrive on the opportunity that they present.  The recession of the 1980s, the worst recession since the Great Depression, brought double-digit unemployment, double-digit inflation, and the Savings & Loan collapse. Although we’re not quite at the extreme levels of unemployment and inflation, we certainly have seen the collapse of a banking model like the S&L’s of the 1980s, as investment banks are no more.  And let’s not forget that the highest levels of unemployment and inflation didn’t surface until we were already recovering in 1983 and 1984.

We learned valuable lessons and built a stronger economy from the experiences of the 1980s.  The application of these lessons lead the S&P 500 to return an annualized rate of 17.6% over that decade.  I’m thankful that we have a history, as Americans, of preserving and making the most of our opportunities.

Depending on the day you ask, or who you ask, your answer to this question will range from doom and gloom to a day of opportunity.  Chances are that we’re farther through it than we realize, or than the media portrays.  Does that mean we’ve seen the worst of it? Probably not.  What it does tell us is that we’re probably in for some higher inflation and unemployment in the coming quarters.  But let’s not forget what we have working for us…history.

Although no two recessions are alike, we’re experiencing a recession something like what we went through as recently as the 1980s.  But history does allow us perspective and confidence that this too will pass.  It gives us an idea of what’s to come, of what’s possible, and what may lie on the other side of our immediate obstacles.  It also gives policy makers and world leaders a crude blueprint of the path to recovery.  It’s this experience and learning opportunity that I’m thankful for today.

In the coming year, as we begin to move down the path to recovery, I think it’s important to remember that amidst all the mudslinging about who’s responsible for this recession, it’s important to look inward.  The banks aren’t to blame.  Our “greedy” American culture isn’t to blame.  We’re all to blame…and none of us are to blame.

As Americans, you can’t blame us for wanting to seize our opportunities, or for putting our focus into doing the things we think are best for our families.  We shouldn’t focus our energy on blaming a small sliver of wrongdoers, but instead we need to focus our energy on surviving and then prospering.

This means employers will find new ways to sell things or service people.  Employees will continue to find new ways of earning income and providing for their families.  Americans will continue to spend and encourage investment from abroad.  And policy makers will create a means to allow us to do these things in the best ways they know how.

We not only live in the land of opportunity but in a culture that has equipped us with the ability to seize those opportunities.  The tools we all posses are ingenuity and hard work.  Both are things we, as Americans, lead the world in. These are the things I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones