Simply saying the words to myself brings back a flood of precious memories…memories of Thanksgivings past, as a child, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, my sisters, and my Mother and Daddy…smells of sage dressing and oven-roasted turkey…followed by the feeling of having an over-stuffed stomach…all topped by the sounds of laughter and the sight of my aunts and uncles, all members of America’s Greatest Generation, being led in a penny-ante poker game after the Thanksgiving meal by my Daddy, the finest man I have ever known…all of them enjoying each other’s company as they reveled in the wonderful completeness of being a family.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American Holiday…as unique as the nation which celebrates it.
In 1621, a small group of Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a feast celebrating the autumn harvest. This is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
However, Thanksgiving is much more than this.
Thanksgiving is a day when Americans thank their Creator for the blessings they have received during the year, while holding hope and expectation in their hearts for the blessings yet to come.
The Father of Our Country expressed his thankfulness concerning God and America, when he announced this holiday in 1789:
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. – United States President George Washington.
On November 15, 1985, in the first year of his second term, President Ronald Reagan issued the following proclamation…
Although the time and date of the first American thanksgiving observance may be uncertain, there is no question but that this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. “Unto Three, O God, do we give thanks,” the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the “wondrous works” of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers.
A band of settlers arriving in Maine in 1607 held a service of thanks for their safe journey, and twelve years later settlers in Virginia set aside a day of thanksgiving for their survival. In 1621 Governor William Bradford created the most famous of all such observances at Plymouth Colony when a bounteous harvest prompted him to proclaim a special day “to render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.” The Spaniards in California and the Dutch in New Amsterdam also held services to give public thanks to God.
In 1777, during our War of Independence, the Continental Congress set aside a day for thanksgiving and praise for our victory at the battle of Saratoga. It was the first time all the colonies took part in such an event on the same day. The following year, upon news that France was coming to our aid, George Washington at Valley Forge prescribed a special day of thanksgiving. Later, as our first President, he responded to a Congressional petition by declaring Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first Thanksgiving Day of the United States of America.
Although there were many state and national thanksgiving days proclaimed in the ensuing years, it was the tireless crusade of one woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, that finally led to the establishment of this beautiful feast as an annual nationwide observance. Her editorials so touched the heart of Abraham Lincoln that in 1863 – even in the midst of the civil War – he enjoined his countrymen to be mindful of their many blessings, cautioning them not to forget “the source from which they come,” that they are “the gracious gifts of the Most High God…” Who ought to be thanked “with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
It is in that spirit that I now invite all Americans to take part again in this beautiful tradition with its roots deep in our history and deeper still in our hearts. We manifest our gratitude to God for the many blessings he has showered upon our land and upon its people.
In this season of Thanksgiving we are grateful for our abundant harvests and the productivity of our industries; for the discoveries of our laboratories; for the researches of our scientists and scholars; for the achievements of our artists, musicians, writers, clergy, teachers, physicians, businessmen, engineers, public servants, farmers, mechanics, artisans, and workers of every sort whose honest toil of mind and body in a free land rewards them and their families and enriches our entire Nation.
Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name. Let every house of worship in the land and every home and every heart be filled with the spirit of gratitude and praise and love on this Thanksgiving Day.
In accordance with this tradition, on Wednesday, November 25th, President Donald J. Trump, issued his own Thanksgiving Proclamation to the American people, in which he said…
On Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for the abundant blessings in our lives. As we gather with family and friends to celebrate this season of generosity, hope, and gratitude, we commemorate America’s founding traditions of faith, family, and friendship, and give thanks for the principles of freedom, liberty, and democracy that make our country exceptional in the history of the world.
This November marks 400 years since the Mayflower and its passengers faced the unknown and set sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Propelled by hope for a brighter future, these intrepid men and women endured two long months at sea, tired and hungry, to arrive in a new world full of potential. In the winter weather that greeted their arrival, they lost nearly half of their fellow travelers to exposure, disease, and starvation. Despite unimaginable hardships, these first Americans nevertheless remained firm in their faith and unwavering in their commitment to their dreams. They forged friendships with the Wampanoag Tribe, fostered a spirit of common purpose among themselves, and trusted in God to provide for them. The following year, they celebrated a successful harvest alongside their Native American neighbors — the first Thanksgiving. This seminal event in the history of our Nation is a continual reminder of the power of faith, love, perseverance, prayer, and fellowship.
The Mayflower’s arrival to the New World in 1620 also marks the arrival of the first seeds of democracy to our land. Absent the rule of a monarch in an uncharted wilderness, these early settlers resolved to create their own government through what is known as the Mayflower Compact. Defined by majority rule through elected leaders responsible for creating “just and equal laws,” the Mayflower Compact represents the first chapter in the long tradition of self-determination and rule of law in America. One hundred and fifty-six years later, our Nation’s Founding Fathers resolved to break free from England, building upon the Mayflower Compact to establish an enduring government whose authority came solely “from the consent of the governed.”
This year, as our Nation continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we have once again joined together to overcome the challenges facing us. In the midst of suffering and loss, we are witnessing the remarkable courage and boundless generosity of the American people as they come to the aid of those in need, reflecting the spirit of those first settlers who worked together to meet the needs of their community. First responders, medical professionals, essential workers, neighbors, and countless other patriots have served and sacrificed for their fellow Americans, and the prayers of our people have once again lifted up our Nation, providing comfort, healing, and strength during times of uncertainty. Despite unprecedented challenges, we have not faltered in the face of adversity. To the contrary, we have leveraged our strengths to make significant breakthroughs that will end this crisis, rebuilding our stockpiles, revamping our manufacturing capabilities, and developing groundbreaking therapeutics and life-saving vaccines on record-shattering timeframes.
During this season of gratitude, we also acknowledge those who cannot be with their families. This includes the brave American patriots of our Armed Forces who selflessly defend our sacred liberty at home and abroad. And we pause to remember the sacrifices of our law enforcement personnel and first responders. We are deeply grateful for all those who remain on watch over the holidays and keep us safe as we celebrate and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.
This Thanksgiving, we reaffirm our everlasting gratitude for all that we enjoy, and we commemorate the legacy of generosity bestowed upon us by our forbearers. Although challenges remain, we will never yield in our quest to live up to the promise of our heritage. As we gather with our loved ones, we resolve with abiding faith and patriotism to celebrate the joys of freedom and cherish the hope and peace of a brighter future ahead.
This Thanksgiving Day 2020, I’m thankful for Americans who are still making a difference. “Average Americans” who still love God and country, and stand on principle with their feet planted on a Solid Rock, and not on shifting sands.
The “Average American”, the 9 to 5′er, working himself into the grave to try to provide for his family.
It was this same “Average American”, who fired the shot heard around the world and began the War for American Independence, who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War II, who waded through rice paddies in Vietnam, and who swallowed sand in Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
The same “Average American” who, as a New York City Policeman or Fireman, ran up the stairs of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, instead of running down them.
The same “Average American”, who simply wants things to be easier in this life for his children and grandchildren, than he had it.
It is this same “Average American”, who takes family and friends in, when they are in the midst of a life-altering tragedy.
The same “Average American”, who volunteers on a soup line or at a Senior Citizens Home, or, who begins a successful business in his basement.
They are the reason we remain, in spite of all that has befallen us as a nation, the Greatest Country on the Face of the Earth, despite what those who are presently trying to take away our right as Americans to choose whom we want to be our President.
They are also the reason that we will Keep America Great.
Until He Comes,