Every year on Thanksgiving, Connecticut families of all ethnicities, religions, creeds, and backgrounds come together to express our gratitude and thanks for the blessings in our lives.  As we are surrounded by our families, friends, neighbors, and even strangers in our communities, this holiday allows us to give back to our community and help those who are not as fortunate.

In Connecticut, we know there are challenges here at home. But the challenges we face should not prevent us from being thankful for the progress we have made together.

I am grateful that in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, we stood shoulder to shoulder with our allies across the globe. It is a reminder of how we should be thankful every day for the sacrifice of our military heroes serving around the world and the first responders here at home who keep us safe. I am also thankful of the tremendous grace and compassion that we have shown in honoring our ongoing commitment to refugees.

At the same time, I am incredibly proud and thankful of the work that our nonprofit community has accomplished this year working with our administration in housing homeless veterans. These are the men and women who have bravely served our nation, and who deserve access to housing, quality health care, education, and career opportunities.

Connecticut was certified this year as being the first in the country to end chronic homelessness among veterans – a milestone we can certainly be proud to have reached. This means that we are at a functional zero head count of chronically homeless veterans in our state. This does not mean that no one will ever experience homelessness again, but it means that we have the tools in place to provide housing quickly should someone be identified.

And we are well on our way to reaching our goal of eliminating chronic homelessness among everyone by the end of next year. These investments have been a top priority of our administration – and especially the state Department of Housing and Department of Veterans’ Affairs – not only because it’s good for our economy and makes our communities stronger, but because it is morally right.

This year we’ve also made incredible headway at reducing our uninsured rate down to its lowest point in history – and among the lowest in the country – at 3.8 percent, and it’s continuing to drop. More of our fellow Connecticut families have access to care to keep them healthy – something for which we should all be grateful.

I am also grateful to our education community for the success they’ve achieved to increase graduation rates, reduce the achievement gap, and make Connecticut one of the best states in the nation to receive an education. In the last five years, our graduation rates statewide have increased to record highs. We are leading nationally in reading. More young students are increasingly gaining access to early childhood education opportunities to prepare them for the future. And we have our teachers, administrators, and parents to thank.

I am particularly grateful to our police officers, prosecutors, judicial officials, crime lab technicians, probation, parole, and corrections officers, and the many nonprofits and community groups whose united efforts have driven our crime rate to its lowest level in almost 50 years. At the same time, I am thankful that law enforcement and community members have worked together, built trust, and employed community policing to reduce crime to this historic low.

I am also thankful that we have been able to lead the nation in creating a Second Chance Society right here in Connecticut. We’ve implemented sweeping reforms, and we’ve enacted smart criminal justice policies. Strong partnerships are key to strong neighborhoods, and it is the work of these people that is making our communities safer and better places to live.

And finally, I am thankful that this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ensured that freedom and equality apply to everyone equally, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

And right now in particular, I am incredibly proud to be the citizen of a country that celebrates freedom, promotes democracy, and is filled with a sense of humanity that can never be broken.

Even though there might be times where we falter, allow fear and doubt to overtake us and struggle through obstacles and challenges, we are a strong state, built by strong people, and we are at our best when we measure our success by how well our neighbors and community are doing.

When it comes down to it, we all strive to achieve the same things in our lives. Family, friends, security, and opportunity. On this day of giving thanks, let us keep our hearts opened, our resolve strong to build a better community, and remain grateful for the blessings and progress we have made together.

Wishing you and yours the very best on this day of Thanksgiving.