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From buying Christmas gifts for friends and family to taking advantage of Black Friday deals, the holidays are usually the busiest time of the year for retailers. The biggest single day, Black Friday, is already behind us, but eight of the 10 historically busiest shopping days fall between December 1 and New Year’s Day.

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While this has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes, America is again preparing to celebrate the many blessings our Creator has bestowed on us. President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, recognizing the need to give thanks despite “needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense.” This year we will gather, either in person or virtually, to give thanks with ongoing efforts to defeat COVID and its effects as our backdrop. I am thankful as ever for family, friends, and the freedom and opportunity available in our nation, as well as the proactive steps we have taken to defeat COVID-19.

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Q: My father-in-law took his own life about four years ago. At the time our kids were very young, so my wife and I simply told them that Grandpa died because he was sick and elderly -- without providing details. Our two oldest are 12 and 9 now, and they want to know more. What should we say?

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At first, it might feel strange to give thanks at the end of a year like this one. 2020 brought with it the CO- VID-19 pandemic, months of social unrest and economic uncertainty, and a contentious and polarized general election. People have lost loved ones, some have lost their business or their job, and many have felt anxiety and stress with teaching children at home, finding day care, or being worried about leaving home to go to the store.

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Over the last four years, we have updated our trade relationships and trade agreements at a historic pace. We secured updated comprehensive trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and South Korea; entered into Phase One agreements with China and Japan that address many significant impediments to U.S. exporters in these major markets; and achieved important progress to remove trade barriers faced by particular sectors in several other countries. Together, these nations purchase almost 50 percent of the United States’ current exports. These agreements facilitated increased opportunities and fairer treatment for American producers and consumers struggling during the pandemic, and they are important platforms to open additional opportunities for U.S. exporters in the future. In part as a result of these agreements, we have seen exports increase 27 percent from the May low. While these agreements continue to bear fruit, it is vital we treat them as the first steps of a long journey toward more open markets and equitable treatment for U.S. goods and services, not an excuse to relax when there is so much more work to be done.

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Q:This year has been so chaotic and difficult. I lost a couple of loved ones to the virus, my income dropped significantly, the nation seems to be falling apart -- I really don’t feel very grateful for anything. Why should we even bother with a “Thanksgiving” holiday this year?

BRANT

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in our community, I am deeply troubled about what the future may bring unless we, as a community, take action very soon.

The “Hustlin’ Huskers” of the 155th

Each year on Veterans Day, we honor the men and women who have served our country in the military. This day puts our political differences into perspective, because although the issues of the day can sometimes seem all-consuming, few among us know what it means to make the kind of sacrifices our veterans have.

Small Business and Community Roundtables Recap

While votes are still being counted and recounted, there are other things we must focus on as well – like getting our economy back on track. Through the use of tools like Zoom, I am able to meet with Nebraskans about our economy without skipping a beat.

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