Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is my favorite holiday because it seems like the one holiday that has not been co-opted by marketing and the media. I have fond memories of watching the Macy’s parade every year, and even saw the parade in person on a few occasions.
It is interesting to me that we were the first nation to recognize a national day of Thanksgiving. Most nations recognize an Independence Day, and a small few followed our example with a day of thanks. However, our nation invented the Thanksgiving holiday.
I’m not going to draw attention to the pilgrims and Plymouth. I’m going to be more political. In 1789 George Washington called upon the people of the United States to “unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble thanks… for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country… and the favorable interpositions of His Providence.” Since then, many presidents have issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.
As I think about the challenges that face our nation today, I look back and see how we responded as a people. In response to what some of us may be feeling this year, here is a sampling of past Presidential Thanksgiving Day Proclamations:
There are those who feel a spirit of despair:
“Today, in an age of too much fashionable despair, the world more than ever needs to hear America’s perennial harvest message: ‘Take heart! Give thanks!’ To see clearly about us is to rejoice; and to rejoice is to worship the Father; and to worship Him is to receive more blessings still.” — Richard Nixon, 1972
There are those who struggle with fear:
“The measure of passing adversity which has come upon us should deepen the spiritual life of the people, quicken their sympathies and spirit of sacrifice for others, and strengthen their courage.” — Herbert Hoover, 1931
As I reflect on another year of COVID and cultural division:
“America by example and in practice help to bind the wounds of others, strive against disorder and aggression, encourage the lessening of distrust among peoples and advance peaceful trade and friendship.” — Franklin D Roosevelt, 1935
“Devoutly grateful to Divine Providence for the richness of our endowment and the many blessings received, may we continue to give a good account of our stewardship by utilizing our resources in the service of mankind.” — Harry S. Truman, 1946
“We recognize that we are the beneficiaries of the toil and devotion of our fathers and that we can pass their legacy on to our children only by equal toil and equal devotion. We recognize too that we live in a world of peril and change – and in so uncertain a time we are all the more grateful for the indestructible gifts of hope and love, which sustain us in adversity and inspire us to labor unceasingly for a more perfect community within this nation and around the Earth.” — John F. Kennedy, 1962
As we gather this Thanksgiving Day, may we recognize that even in the midst of struggle and confusion, we have many blessings for which we may give thanks to God. It is, after all, part of who we are as a nation.
• The Rev. Tim Harrison is senior pastor for Chapel by the Lake. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.