THE MERE fact that we have arrived at another Thanksgiving Day is reason enough be thankful. But so many of us have so much more to be grateful for: We will spend the day surrounded by family and friends as we break bread together, watch football games and, yes, possibly even partake in a bit of Christmas shopping.
But all is not well in our country. Any hope that the midterm election would snatch our nation’s leaders from the ledge of dysfunction and divisiveness appears to have been but a fleeting and futile wish. And yet we persevere and cling to a blessed hope that a brighter day and better tomorrow lie ahead. That’s the enduring spirit of America, a strong and free nation forged out of great struggle and sacrifice. A nation with a steely resolve that has always managed to meet and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
A nation that, while flawed, remains the beacon of freedom, hope and opportunity for the world. A nation wise enough to know that it has been fortunate and blessed. A grateful nation.
So grateful, that we set aside this solemn day each year to count our many blessings and express our thanks. Thanks for our families, friends and fellow Americans who share this wonderful land of opportunity. Thanks for the courageous men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces. Thanks for the many freedoms their sacrifice affords us.
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Despite the gridlock that engulfs our nation’s Capitol, the uneasiness about involving our honorable military in wars abroad and numerous unanswered questions about our domestic affairs, we carry on, knowing that ours is a country that, in its darkest hours, rises to shine with the brightest of lights.
Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s 16th president, knew of that great light. And a century and a half ago, during one of the most challenging periods in America’s history, President Lincoln called on Americans to pause to give thanks and offer up prayers that our country might be restored. On this Thanksgiving Day, we once again recall his words:
The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to invite and provoke the aggression of foreign states, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. The needful diversion of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense has not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship. The axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect a continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be reverently, solemnly, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. 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, as soon as may be consistent with divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.