Happy Holiday!!! I just want to start this letter by saying how grateful I am for all of you, for this wonderful weather and for this beautiful place we all call home.  I was recently talking to some new friends of mine that immigrated to this country from Europe.  Our discussion was revolving around how much Derek and I have enjoyed hosting students from other countries in our home and how our perception of their home countries has changed from knowing each of them and how their perception of America has also changed based on knowing us. 

                Our new friends confirmed that there is something distinctly American about the citizens of this country.  They feel that they are generally optimistic about the future and they have no fear of completely re-inventing themselves.  It was actually a really fascinating discussion because Derek and I can only see it from the perspective of being born here.  We know our history but we have always seen it as the new Americans that settled in North America from Europe.  If you were in Europe at the time, you would have seen it as the Europeans that decided to start over with a clean slate and that spirit of re-invention lives on. 

                If you would have met me as a teenager, I don’t think you would have recognized me.  I did some pretty crazy things and to be honest with you, I am darn lucky to be alive right now.  There were a few incredible people that didn’t give up on me during that time that I literally owe my life to.  No matter what insanity I was into at the moment, they saw the potential that I had in front of me.  They never gave up on knowing that I could be more than I thought I could be.  Luckily, they stood by me for as long as it took for me to realize it myself. 

                Everyday I work with people who are re-inventing themselves.  They are moving to a new life, they are moving to create a new life here, or they are letting go of houses that they inherited from loved ones who have passed and they are creating new space for new memories.  They are creating a new start for themselves and their families.  I didn’t realize that this is a particularly American trait but when I think about it, several of our exchange students live in homes that their families have owned for generations.

                For that reason and for countless others I am grateful to be an American.   I am also grateful for the insight that allows me to always try to be the person that sees the possibilities in others and to inspires them to reach for a grander version of themselves. 

                The holidays are always a great time to slow down and reflect on the many things that we are all grateful for and for making plans for the future.  I am so looking forward to seeing how this next year unfolds.  I am sure there will be challenges, but I am also sure that we will be ready to find solutions to those challenges.  I am optimistic about the future and I like to think that it is because I am a part of a long line of courageous people that were never afraid of sailing directly into tomorrow.   


Mark Ramey