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Happy Thanksgiving!

But what on earth is this most American of celebrations all about? Keith Stanfield pens a modern and very personal ode of gratitude to the “land of the free and the home of the brave”

I’ve spent my life in a reasonable number of countries. I’m probably not the world record transplant, but I have moved around more than the average person.

The thing about the United States of America is that its brand, or the hype of the place (‘land of the free and home of the brave’, ‘enterprise culture’, ‘risk and reward’, and all the rest), seems like an exaggeration abroad – but you learn, after living here for a while, that it really is true.

Because in American culture (established in 1776) – the environment really is wide open. You can fail very hard here. It may not even be entirely your fault. And although that does cause problems, the spirit and willingness I have seen of private individuals to provide assistance to those who need it when they need it, in various forms, is truly exceptional.

It is also possible to completely rise above your station here in a manner that is unprecedented.

But seriously. It really is! 

There are limitless possibilities here, and some of them are spelt s u c c e s s. It doesn’t matter how low or high you set your goals, or at what level of industry or society you start, you have a fighting chance of shaking things up for yourself and your family – provided you are willing to risk failure.

And this speaks to the heart of what I am saying. 

The point at which you are able psychologically to accept failure is where you find your freedom. You have nothing to lose, so how then can you lose nothing? 

In other places I have lived, if the gatekeeper closes the door, the door is closed. Here, you can bash it down if you have the will and the mental strength to accept a lack of success.

That doesn’t mean that you get everything you want, and that all your dreams will come true. But it means that you can make a jolly good go of it. You can back yourself to win.

And if something so important to you is beyond your reach, you can turn that around if you’re willing to try. All you need here is to be more determined, and let that filter through to your actions.

I believe that this sort of determination is what keeps us all alive. After all – breathing is a lot of work for the body. Determination gives focus, produces results and shows you the value of effort and sacrifice.

I am hugely grateful – and relieved – to be a citizen of this country, and for all that I have, and all the wonderful things that this country has given me this Thanksgiving. 

Although I am a naturalized citizen, deep down I feel like I was always an American in spirit. And that’s the beauty of it – it doesn’t matter where I was born. That’s how the whole country came to be.

It’s easy to get anxious about passing events. But that’s the thing to remember … troubling times are all passing, like the rest of us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Keith is a violinist and a member of the Opus 76 Quartet, playing over 50 Quartet concerts a year. Outside of the quartet, Keith made recordings of Mozart Violin Concertos 3 & 4 and works by Johan Sebastian Bach for solo violin (available on iTunes). Keith is a former soccer player, who represented Western Samoa in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. He has coached soccer in the UK and the USA. More recently, Keith became a consultant for arts organizations looking to grow their audiences, specializing in online communications. (You can visit his quartet at:

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