Graduation offers many reasons to be thankful

It was a great privilege to attend the Durango High School graduation ceremony Friday evening. I was especially impressed with the words of one of the graduates. Carl Salee, who had recently been to Kenya, said only 40 percent of the kids there get to go to high school because it is so expensive. He reiterated several times how grateful that he was for the “free” education system that we have here in Colorado.

As I listened and watched the rest of the graduation exercise, with the background of the Animas River lined with abundant cottonwood trees and the hillside leading up to Fort Lewis College covered with oak brush and cedar and pińon trees, I also felt enormous gratitude for this great country and for abundance that we enjoy.

I am grateful that the Legislature was able to find the money to prevent further cuts in K-12 education. We are blessed with a great opportunity for good education in Colorado, and I am thankful for the taxpayers, parents, administrators, teachers and all others that make it happen.

I especially appreciate good teachers who find a way to help kids learn, even though sometimes the home environment is not the best. When you see teachers, please thank them and lift them up.

The background to Durango’s graduation made me reflect on how thankful I am for our beautiful surroundings as compared to how I envision Kenya. I am always amazed at the difference in how Durango looks today as compared to pictures I have seen in the late 1800s. In the old pictures of Durango, there are few trees and little grass and the air seems dirtier than today.

Back in those days wood and coal were used to heat homes, cook meals and build houses, hence few trees and dirty air, and horses were used for work and transportation, hence no grass.

The difference is the ingenuity of man in a free-enterprise system of government. The discovery of oil and gas and the ensuing petroleum-powered engines and electrical generation and transmission brought about a better environment, more work efficiency and more abundant food, which allows us to have even more time and resources to protect our environment.

The last days of the 2012 legislative session and the ensuing “special session” were quite chaotic to say the least, yet unlike many other countries in the world, we worked through those difficulties in a respectful way using the rules that were in place. For that, I am very thankful.

Although my name is not on the bill, addictive and life-threatening drugs called “bath salts” will be illegal in Colorado upon the governor’s signature.

The water-projects bill that included the final payment for the Animas-La Plata water and money for cloud seeding, a bill that will save employees and employers millions of dollars in unemployment compensation, and a bill that will save the owners of fleets of big machinery thousands of dollars in time and taxes were passed in the special session.

Although we do have our problems, and our government is not perfect, I wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world.

J. Paul Brown represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses San Juan, Archuleta and La Plata counties and parts of Montezuma County. Contact Brown by phone at (303) 866-2914 or by email at jpaul.brown.house@state.co.us.