Frank Stevenson 2016-10-21 18:12:48
Happy Thanksgivings “Welcome! Welcome Englishmen!” However improbable, these were the first words the Pilgrims heard from a Native American. Contemporary accounts describe a man of “seemly carriage” boldly striding into the Pilgrims’ camp on March 16, 1621. He was Samoset, sagamore of the Abenaki. Many Thanksgiving accounts don’t even mention him, focusing instead on Squanto, a Patuxet whom Samoset led to the Pilgrims a week later. Squanto—who spoke better English than Samoset— negotiated peace treaties with the neighboring tribes and taught the Pilgrims to cultivate, collect, and catch the food that sustained them—thus supplying the historical requisites for the holiday we observe this month. But without Samoset, no Squanto. No Squanto, no Pilgrims. No Pilgrims, no Thanksgiving. Further, Samoset promptly asked the Pilgrims for beer, thus also supplying a critical historical requisite for our Thanksgiving— the one associated with televised football. But why did they give thanks? After a grueling crossing, the Pilgrims landed in late December, roughly 250 miles north of where they intended. During a relentless winter, they suffered from malnutrition, scurvy, and other diseases. By the time Samoset appeared the next spring, half of the original colonists were dead. Yet still they gave thanks. Another person critical to our Thanksgiving observance was a 74-year-old magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale. On September 28, 1863, Hale wrote President Abraham Lincoln, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” Lincoln complied, immediately. Like Samoset, no one remembers Hale—she’s eclipsed by the great president who signed the proclamation. But without Hale, no letter. No letter, no proclamation. No proclamation, no Thanksgiving. But why did she give thanks? Hale—who’d made the identical request of every president each of the previous 15 years—wrote that year a week after Chickamauga, the second costliest battle of America’s bloodiest conflict, and three months after Gettysburg, the costliest one. And yet still Hale and Lincoln gave thanks. It seems the things we are grateful for are like the stars—the darker it is, the better we see them. Many November events warrant thanksgiving—not just the one on the fourth Thursday On November 21, 1934, a 17-year-old orphaned reformatory escapee was picked by lot to perform at Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. She was a dancer, but, finding herself onstage after a wildly popular dance duo, was too intimidated to move. The crowd began to jeer, so the teenager reflexively started singing—terribly. The emcee, Ralph Cooper, rushed onstage to help her regain composure. She started singing again—gloriously—and in some sense never stopped. Her name was Ella Fitzgerald. Cooper gets no fanfare. But without Cooper, no Ella. No Ella, well, who wants to even think about that? Samoset, Hale, and Cooper sounds like a law firm, but they actually represent the sort of people for whom I’m most grateful this Thanksgiving—the unlauded who did the laudable. Add to that list the State Bar staff—and specifically this month, Cory Squires. November is the month to review our insurance options— which is more challenging than ever before. While the Affordable Care Act has reduced the ranks of the uninsured, resulting turmoil has rocked the insurance industry— raising premiums, altering or dropping plans, and even triggering exits from the federal exchange. I’m thankful for Squires who—as antidote to all that—oversees the State Bar’s Private Insurance Exchange, or “PIE.” Every leading health insurance provider in Texas participates in PIE. And since health insurance plans and rates are regulated, PIE’s pricing can’t be beat. But for the same price, you get so much more. First, speed and ease. It took me less than a minute to answer some short questions before being presented with a page full of quotes. No need to hop between various insurer websites to compare plans; PIE does that for you. It’s as easy as, well, PIE. Another is choice. PIE offers options often not available through other means. And PIE always is developing new initiatives. But speed, ease, and options are not PIE’s primary benefits. What Squires and PIE offer is advice and advocacy you won’t find on your own. By asking a few simple questions, the “Best Fit” tool identifies a plan well-suited to you, saving you money and time. Sometimes only a conversation can ensure best results. So PIE offers access to a team of benefits counselors, expert with each health plan and trained to work with attorneys. And if you later have a billing error or claim problem, its service team helps get your issues addressed. Since PIE’s January 2014 launch, major medical enrollments have skyrocketed nine-fold to nearly 6,500. PIE also offers dental plans, term life, long-term disability, travel, and supplemental Medicare plans. Medical insurance for yourself and the people you care about will get harder this year. And so, this year we better see why to give thanks for Cory Squires. But as extraordinary as he is, Squires is no way remarkable. With 3 percent fewer staff than 10 years ago, our State Bar serves 24 percent more lawyers. That’s one reason why many Texas lawyers we’ll induct into our bar this November 21 weren’t born the last time our dues were raised. Giving thanks seems warranted. So, this month, quaff a cold one for Samoset, celebrate Thanksgiving for Hale, play some Ella for Cooper, and shop insurance for Squires. These and a million other blessings—many the gifts of the unlauded, but all bright shining as stars—compose November’s plentitude. Happy Thanksgivings, y’all. FRANK STEVENSON President, State Bar of Texas
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