Giving Thanks for Living Treasures

Posted 11.23.2015

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (yes, I have my tickets for the new Star Wars movie), I found myself in a conference room in Arlington, Virginia taking the oral exams for the United States Foreign Service. The day was a series of group exercises, in-box exercises and interviews. One of the interviews was conducted by a panel of Foreign Service officers politely firing unpredictable questions at you.

At one point, an officer on the panel started her question by saying, “As I’m sure you know, in Japan they have a tradition of naming accomplished people in different fields as living national treasures.” And, of course, I was thinking to myself, “No, I had no idea whatsoever that they do that in Japan. How in the hell am I going to answer this question?” Then she asked, “If you were to name five Americans as living treasures, who would they be?” My next thought was, “Oh, thank you so much. Let me take a crack at that.”

For some reason, I decided to categorize my list into different fields like the arts, media, science, business and education. This was back in 1983 (yes, I’m that old) so I don’t remember most of my answers. My first was Steven Spielberg. At that point in his career, he was best known for Jaws, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the first Indiana Jones movie. Considering everything he’s done since then (check out his IMDB page), I’ll stand by that answer. The other one I remember was Walter Cronkite. It’s harder to understand that one now in today’s fragmented world of media, but in 1983, as the anchor of the CBS Evening News, he was “the most trusted man in America.”

A conversation I had this past weekend reminded me of that living treasures question. It’s a pretty cool tradition if you think about it. I guess the Kennedy Center honors are the closest thing we have to that in the United States. Of course, all of the people with a Kennedy Center medal are famous for their accomplishments. But, what if we approached the people we’re closest to in our lives as living treasures? They’re probably not famous or world-renowned, but they are treasures nonetheless.

Since this is the week in the United States when we set aside a day for thanksgiving, it seems like a great opportunity to not only give but express thanks for the people who are living treasures in our lives. If you’re intrigued by the idea, make a list of your living treasures. Once you have the list, spend some time in this season of thanksgiving to tell each of those people why they’re on your list. It could lead to a very meaningful Thanksgiving.