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We thank you

Words of gratitude to just a few of those who deserve praise for their efforts on behalf of us all.

November 22, 2007

As America pauses today in gratitude, we join in expressing our appreciation for those who have contributed something of value in 2007 -- police and firefighters who risked their lives to protect ours, artists who expanded our vision, activists and public servants who strengthened and ennobled our society. There are, of course, too many to thank. The following are just a few of the people and institutions we believe deserve special recognition on this day.

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Father Gregory Boyle

In a city where many fret about gang violence, Boyle is a rare example of someone who actually does something about it. As the founder of Homeboy Industries, he has been offering counseling and employment to gang members for two decades -- everything from tattoo removal to catering and baking jobs. In October, he presided over the reopening of Homeboy Industries' headquarters, which now sits on the edge of downtown, its cafe bustling with new business. Boyle is just one piece of the enterprise, but his patient devotion to his ministry has saved many lives and made Los Angeles safer and more compassionate.

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Jerry Sanders

Sanders is the Republican mayor of a conservative city, San Diego, and he's trying to get re-elected by voters who solidly approved a ballot measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Nevertheless, in September, Sanders announced that he had reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage, in part because he couldn't bring himself to tell his lesbian daughter that he considered her relationship with her partner somehow less than his. "I've decided to lead with my heart," he announced at an emotional news conference. Here's hoping that others follow.

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Sunila Abeysekera and Hollman Morris

Honored by Human Rights Watch with this year's Human Rights Defender Awards, Abeysekera and Morris risk their lives daily pursuing basic principles of justice that most Americans take for granted. Abeysekera, director of a Sri Lanka center that documents abuses by and against the minority Tamil population in the midst of an ongoing civil war, has helped focus the world's attention on the killings of aid workers, the abduction and "disappearance" of more than 1,000 young Tamil men and the displacement of up to 1 million people. Morris is a journalist and documentary filmmaker whose TV show "Contravia" (Countercurrent) investigates atrocities committed by all sides in Colombia's three-way conflict among government forces, left-wing paramilitaries and the right-wing mafia. He refuses to be cowed despite false accusations by the government of President Alvaro Uribe, which has tried to silence Morris and endangered his life by linking him to leftist guerrillas.

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Gustavo Dudamel

Dudamel doesn't start his job as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic until 2009, but he's already an inspiration for its Young Musicians Initiative, which hopes to put an instrument in the hands of every child in the county. Now 26, Dudamel was 4 years old when he joined Venezuela's storied Il Sistema (the System), an orchestral program that has trained hundreds of thousands of poor children. Nearly 200 of them -- members of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra -- performed here last month under Dudamel's baton. Their world-class musicianship left audiences and critics breathless, and hopeful for the children of L.A.

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The Global Fund

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria may be the most effective humanitarian organization on Earth, funneling billions in aid from governments around the world toward fighting three of mankind's deadliest scourges. It's impossible to know how many lives have been saved in the five years of the organization's existence, but the number is probably in the millions. Programs funded by the Global Fund have provided AIDS treatment to 1.1 million people and tuberculosis treatment to 2.8 million, and distributed 30 million bed nets to protect against malarious mosquitoes. The organization's creation and success is inspiring proof of humanity's capacity for good.

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Los Angeles Police Department

We occasionally have our differences with the LAPD -- over, say, its response to the May Day immigration rally in MacArthur Park, or its now-shelved proposal to map Muslim communities -- but we also appreciate the daily and often unnoticed acts of heroism by its officers. Two of the many who performed such acts this year are Joseph Lopes and Joseph Oyama, who saved an infant from being drowned by a mentally unstable woman in June. Their quick thinking saved the child; their negotiating skills brought the woman into custody and avoided tragedy.

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Firefighters

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