Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas is now approaching. As the final days of 2018 unfold, I'm reminded of so many blessings in my life. Permit me to share a few of those with you.

I'm blessed to live in a country founded upon the ideals of liberty. I'm blessed by the material abundance all around me. I'm blessed to live in a time of exciting innovation. I'm blessed by the presence of my family, friends, church, and community.

I'm also thankful for the cooperative family of which I'm blessed to be a part.

I'm thankful for the local distribution cooperatives spread across America—cooperatives that are embedded in their communities, daily impacting and improving the quality of life for so many. These distribution cooperatives truly serve the man, woman, and child "at the end of the line."

I'm thankful for the many directors who give of their time and talents to provide leadership at cooperatives across the country. I'm one of you, and I have great respect for you. Thank you for your stewardship. Thank you for the wisdom and common sense you bring into the boardroom. Thank you for your passion for the cooperative movement.

I'm thankful also for the many cooperative managers whom I'm blessed to know. Leaders like Jim Matheson (NRECA's CEO), Duane Noland (CEO of the Illinois statewide), Don Gulley (CEO of Southern Illinois Power), and Marcia Scott (GM of my distribution cooperative in Illinois). These are examples of the kinds of people who lead cooperatives across America: true servant leaders, guiding with their accumulated knowledge of this industry, courage for challenging times, and integrity to do the right thing.

I'm thankful in addition for leaders who have led us so well in the past. Jo Ann Emerson, former CEO of NRECA, comes to my mind frequently, and I'm sure she comes to your mind as well. May Jo Ann and her family feel the continuing love we have for them this holiday season.

I also remember and am thankful for those who are no longer with us, those who have been taken from us and yet are not forgotten. My dear friend Justin LaBerge comes to mind. Justin was a talented young man who worked in the communications department of NRECA, one who had such passion for cooperatives, but one who was taken from us less than a year ago. Justin is sorely missed, but he still lives in our hearts, and he will live there forever.

Life can make us glad, and life can make us sad. Even in our sadness, however, we are thankful to have known and to have been impacted by such people as Justin. May their legacy continue to inspire us, and may their families feel our love and our appreciation today.

May God bless you and yours throughout this holiday season.