Pioneers of Enlightenment

On this annual American holiday of Thanksgiving, we stop to ponder our good fortune (however meager or extravagant that might be) and to thank those who have had a positive influence on our life.  While many will direct prayers of thanks to a deity and most will focus on the love, encouragement and devotion of family and friends, we should not overlook the gifts bestowed by past members of human society.

In particular, the pioneers of science laid the foundation for human progress, insisting on objective methods in our search for truth and understanding.  Ridiculed and persecuted by the power brokers of society (a resistance that continues today), their perseverance has been vital to both the enlightenment and the very survival of our species.  In like manner, those who championed the rights and dignity of the individual, thereby stemming the forces of oppression and discrimination, fueled the spread of democracy, personal freedom and international cooperation across the globe.  And, of course, the work of early conservationists, long challenged by the captains of industry, is admired and appreciated by all humans who share their concerns for the welfare of Earth's natural ecosystems.

While we cannot personally thank these and other pioneers of human enlightenment, we honor them by acknowledging the benefits of their courageous work and by resolving to build on their past achievements.  We owe that commitment to future generations.