Commentary: ​​Memories from Christmas past are inspirational for our future Christmases


‘Tis the season when we take stock of our lives and wonder if we are better off.  It prompts memories of “Christmases past” and wonderment about “Christmases future.”

In some ways our lives are much better now. However, in other ways, we’re in worse shape.

Today, we have coronavirus vaccines which work and are widely available.  The Kaiser Family Foundation found the virus is deadly for all age groups in our country. Since June, Kaiser estimated vaccinations have prevented 163,000 deaths.

The vaccines were developed at “warp speed” during Donald Trump’s time in office and deployed rapidly under Joe Biden’s watch. Both presidents deserve credit for their actions which are saving lives.

Today, in Washington state, three out of four citizens have received at least one shot and two-thirds are fully vaccinated. While the numbers are impressive, still too many people are dying and a high percentage of the deaths are among the unvaccinated.

The good news is we are better at stopping COVID-19 than we were preventing polio in the 1950s.  It took years to develop and test vaccines and things didn’t always work. In 1954, an early batch actually caused a polio outbreak.

The vaccine was perfected by Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh.

“By August 1955 some 4 million shots had been given. Cases of polio in the U.S. dropped from 14,647 in 1955 to 5,894 in 1956, and by 1959 some 90 other countries were using Salk’s vaccine,” according to 

While Americans are exhausted from the pandemic, the comforting news this Christmas is vaccines work.

However, most people are frustrated by the constant vitriolic bickering and intolerance of the “cancel culture.”  As a result, citizens just don’t trust politicians or media.  Both are out of touch and tone deaf.

An October Gallup Poll found: “Less than half of U.S. adults (44%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in people who hold or are running for public office, rivaling the record low of 42% from 2016.”

The recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows Biden’s approval rating sank to 41%, which is a historic low for the president in polls conducted by this group.

Lack of trust and confidence in elected officials and media is a major problem for “Christmases future.”

“Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend,” MSN announced.

Where are the trusted journalists — the Walter Cronkites?  The Cronkites reported the news and were not the news.

When I started as a reporter for daily newspapers in the 1960s, editors insisted that we report the news accurately from all perspectives. The editorial page was reserved for opinions. Today, the line separating news reporting from opinion is so obfuscated among the major mainstream media, it is nearly invisible.

Where are the civic, government, labor and business leaders such as the groups that staged Seattle’s World Fair in 1962 and Spokane’s 1974 Expo?     

We grew up in a small town outside a larger city in Montana.  Elected officials, business leaders, labor unions, and politicians would argue vigorously and disagree, but in the end they would find ways to solve problems.  They built communities and took pride in their cities and towns.   Smashing windows, looting stores and ripping business districts apart was unthinkable and intolerable.

This Christmas, the best present America can receive is restoration of trust, civility, respect and confidence in our political, civic, business, media and labor leaders. There are important lessons from “Christmases past” which, if applied, would put America back on track for better “Christmases future.”


Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist.  He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at