What I’m Grateful For: Parents Who Loved This Country Even When They Didn’t Like Its History

And why Michele Norris, the former host of NPR’s All Things Considered, takes a giant urn on family vacations.

Photograph of Norris by David Welch

This article is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “Gratitude.” We asked dozens of notable Washingtonians as well as our readers: What are you most grateful for? Read some of their responses here.

Michele Norris

Columnist for the Washington Post, founding director of the Race Card Project, and former host of NPR’s All Things Considered

Is there a way you regularly practice gratitude?

When we’re on vacation, we have a habit of taking a big urn and a little notepad with a pen, and throughout the time we’re all together as a family, we will write down the things that make us happy and the things for which we are grateful. I realized in this [pandemic] that a practice like that should not just be reserved for vacation. I’m endeavoring to introduce that into our daily lives so we capture even the smallest moments of joy: The toast came out of the toaster just right. I sat down for tea, and there was a bluebird or a cardinal outside the window. Or I saw a rabbit scamper across the lawn. Just the small things that bring moments of either joy or gratitude.

What are you most grateful for?

I am really grateful that I was raised by parents who helped me understand that you can love a country even if you don’t love its history. My parents loved a country that did not love them back. They were deeply patriotic—my father in particular. There were flags in our garden and flags everywhere, even though he was a World War II veteran who served in a segregated unit; grew up in Alabama and dealt with all the Jim Crow laws; moved to a neighborhood in Minneapolis and watched his neighbors all put their houses up for sale.

It would be easy for my parents to have a hardened view about the country they called home, yet they believed in America’s promise. And they passed that on to their kids. In a really divided moment, I’m thankful that I have that foundation. That you can love America even if you don’t love America’s history, and part of loving America is asking her to live up to her promises spelled out in our Constitution and in our core beliefs.

Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.