A Thanksgiving Collection
inNovember 14, 2012 - 4:33am
There are many Thanksgiving collectibles. Salt and pepper shakers, post cards and greeting cards, platters and candles can all be found in the shapes of turkeys and pilgrims and Indians. Vintage cornucopia brooches strike the fancy of many and I am sure figurines and dolls decorate shelves across America. But given that we have so recently elected a president, I would like to offer a different kind of Thanksgiving collection, a collection of excerpts from presidential Thanksgiving Day Proclamations during some our nation’s momentous historical occasions.
A jubilant George Washington Thanksgiving Day 1789 in his first year as president: 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 . . . I do recommend this day to be devoted 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 . . .
A grieving Abraham Lincoln Thanksgiving Day 1863 just a few days after Gettysburg: [Our] bounties are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. . . they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged . . . by the whole American people . . . And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it.
A triumphant William McKinley Thanksgiving Day 1899 at the brink of a new century: Seldom has this nation had greater cause for profound thanksgiving. No great pestilence has invaded our shores. Liberal employment waits upon labor. Abundant crops have rewarded the efforts of the husbandman. Increased comforts have come to the home. The national finances have been strengthened, and public credit has been sustained and made firmer. . . For these reasons and countless others, I advise that on this day religious exercises shall be conducted in the churches or meeting places of all denominations, in order that in the social features of the day its real significance may not be lost sight of, but prayers may be offered to the Most High for a continuance of the divine guidance without which man’s efforts are vain. . .
A resolute Woodrow Wilson Thanksgiving Day 1917 as the USA enters World War I: Our people turn in the fruitful autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation. That custom we can follow now even in the midst of the tragedy of a world shaken by war and immeasurable disaster, in the midst of sorrow and great peril, because even amidst the darkness that has gathered about us we can see the great blessings God has bestowed upon us . . . We’ve been given the opportunity to serve mankind as we once served ourselves in the great day of our Declaration of Independence, by taking up arms against a tyranny that threatened to master and debase men everywhere and joining with other free peoples in demanding for all the nations what we then demanded and obtained for ourselves. . .
A victorious Franklin Roosevelt Thanksgiving Day 1944 after the success of D Day: In this year of liberation it is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our allies . . . For the preservation of our way of life from the threat of destruction; for the unity of spirit which has kept our Nation strong; for our abiding faith in freedom; and for the promise of an enduring peace . . .
A hopeful John Kennedy Thanksgiving Day 1963, just 17 days before he was assassinated: On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.
A saddened George W. Bush Thanksgiving Day 2001 just after the terror attacks of 9/11: As we recover from the terrible tragedies of September 11, Americans of every belief and heritage give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy as a free, faithful, and fair-minded land . . . In thankfulness and humility, we acknowledge, especially now, our dependence on One greater than ourselves. . . let our thanksgiving be revealed in the compassionate support we render to our fellow citizens who are grieving unimaginable loss; and let us reach out with care to those in need . . . May Almighty God, who is our refuge and our strength in this time of trouble, watch over our homeland, protect us, and grant us patience, resolve, and wisdom in all that is to come.
The Pilgrims Hall Museum website records full transcripts on line of every Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation for all to peruse and enjoy. Not all Thanksgivings were in November; there are times when there were several in a year; there are many years with none. John Adams proclaimed days of fasting and prayer rather than thanksgiving and from 1816 until 1862 no presidential proclamations were made. But the ones that are there are remarkable and cause the reader to pause and reflect.
In these proclamations our leaders spoke to draw us together as a nation when there was abundance and when there was not, in good times and in difficult days, reminding us that there is always something for which to be thankful and a duty to express that gratitude. Whatever your situation this Thanksgiving, take a moment to ponder the good things in your life, then gather your family and friends together—they are truly your greatest collection and follow the advice of Ronald Reagan, Thanksgiving 1985: 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.
Written by Cindy Brown
Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane