Happy Australia Day!

We have, despite our challenges and shortcomings, a hell of a lot to be proud of, and thankful for.

A woman faces away from the camera as she stand on the beach with an Australian flag around her shoulders and making a heart shape with her hands.

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There is an increasing amount of angst about celebrating Australia Day on January 26.

And those raised tensions are on both sides of the debate, with increasingly vocal groups arguing for change, or for retention.

There is no small irony in the fact that our national day – when we celebrate us, and our country – is one of the more divisive days on our calendar.

Personally, almost for that reason alone, I think we probably should change it. I also think those who argue for a change have a good case. January 26, 1788, was a momentous day that had a large impact in shaping the country we are today. In good ways, but also in bad. I'm not sure it's the right date to celebrate our nationhood.

But, as I've done in years prior, because today is officially Australia Day, I'm going to reflect on the incredible privilege and opportunity we have as Australians.

We have, despite our challenges and shortcomings, a helluva lot to be proud of, and thankful for.

We are, overwhelmingly, peaceful and free.

We have, even with its imperfections, an enviable system of justice and governance.

We look out for each other.

And we look after each other.We have the ability to discuss, argue and peacefully protest.

We can stand for parliament, free of religious, gender or other restrictions.

We live in what I reckon is the most beautiful, if sometimes harsh, place in the world.

We are enormously prosperous.

I hope you realise all of that.

In the past, I've worked for some wonderful businesses, and some not-so-wonderful.

When I worked for the former, I'd sometimes come across a colleague who'd been at that one company for many years.

They'd complain and whinge about all of the problems, seemingly oblivious to the positives.

And I'd often remark – usually to myself! – that they'd only need to spend a few weeks working somewhere else to realise just how good they had it.

That didn't mean, by the way, that some of those issues weren't real, or that they didn't need addressing.

But those colleagues had let the real and perceived problems become so overwhelmingly prominent that they'd lost sight of the bigger picture.

Because that bigger picture was of a wonderful business that, while it had its issues, was better than many, perhaps most, other places to work.

They were lucky to work there.

And that, I reckon, is how we should think about Australia, today and every day.

I worry that, in our focus on the stuff that's broken, many of us miss the fact that most other countries would kill for our problems, rather than theirs.

Those people spend so much time, effort and energy thinking about the imperfections and issues, and too little being grateful for the positives.

Seriously, in which other country would you rather live?

Which country is more peaceful? Wealthier? More free? Safer? Which country is more beautiful? Has a healthier rule of law? Has a fairer distribution of tax collection and spending? Is more multicultural? And has a better national character?

Now, I'm not saying we're top of the pops in each category (though we'd be bloody close!). But I am saying that I reckon you'd be hard pressed to score us on those things, and then find another country that beats us, overall.

As an investor, I reckon we're bloody lucky, too. Because all of those things, and more, give us the opportunity to build real long-term wealth.

Right now, some of you are doing the 'yeah but what about…' thing.

Good. Me too.

We have lots of opportunities to be even better.

We're not taking sufficient care of our environment. Not everyone has an equal shot at success. Our political system is showing some wear and tear. We don't look after each other the way we used to, and individualism means there's more "I'm alright, Jack" and less "Fair go" than in times past.

We should work very hard to deal with those things.

So my call is not for complacency, or to rest on our laurels.

But it's also not a despairing resignation or choosing to wallow in a bleak selective view consisting only of our problems and shortcomings.

Australians have a lot to celebrate, and to be proud of.

Some of it luck. Most of it, the lottery of birth, or the happy circumstances that led us to arrive on Australian shores.

Much of it, left to us by those who came before us; an inheritance we should consider ourselves duty-bound to cherish, protect and then pass on.

And some of it – enough to be proud of, but not so much that we get arrogant – the efforts we've made to make this country a better place in which to live and work.

So, let's celebrate all of that.

Because, despite our problems, we are some of the luckiest people on the planet.

Please don't be like my former colleagues who had become so insular and lacking in perspective that they could only see the bad things, and not how lucky they were.

Please don't fall for the doom and gloom – investing, or otherwise.

Do we have challenges? You bet we do.

Will we overcome them, just as we've overcome every other challenge in the past? Bloody oath we will.

It takes effort. And goodwill. And a little care for each other. But we have a great base from which to start.

Or rather, from which to continue.

And we should. We owe it to ourselves and to each other.

I hope you have a great Australia Day. If the date itself is painful, I understand. I hope you can at least celebrate, disconnected from the date itself, how lucky we are to be Australian.

And let's commit ourselves to making sure that, each Australia Day (on whatever date it falls), we can look back at the previous 12 months, and be proud of the progress we've made.

And of the country we're leaving to our kids.

Fool on!

Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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