Thanksgiving Day Remembrances –November 24, 2016

Give Thanks

With the celebration of Thanksgiving Day this Thursday, we offer excerpts from the annual proclamation by select presidents. Note not only the unique historical context in which each proclamation was made, but also the common bond of faith in each. Lastly, the facing page is the entire first proclamation of thanksgiving in 1789. It was issued by George Washington. An interesting exercise for the reflective reader might be to highlight in his or her own mind, which points in Washington’s proclamation most resonate with you.

John Adams, 1798. (Adams’ is, along with Lincoln’s, probably the most sobering proclamation.)

I recommend…a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States…offer devout addresses to the Father of Mercies… and with deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and a nation….Finally, I recommend that prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for having protected and preserved the people of these United States in the enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them…,conferring on them many great favors conducive to happiness and prosperity.

Abraham Lincoln, 1863 (Lincoln’s deep sense of God’s hand in the Civil War and life of the Nation.)

Thursday, a day for national thanksgiving, praise, and prayer, I invite the people of the United States…to render the homage due to the Divine Majesty for the wonderful things He has done in the nation's behalf and to invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles, and sieges, suffer in mind, body, or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation through the paths of repentance and submission to the divine will back to the perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944 (FDR issued this proclamation in the last full year of World War II)

For 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 the promise of an enduring peace, we should lift up our hearts in thanksgiving and for a multitude of private blessings, known only in our hearts, we should give united thanks to God.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1963 (JFK issued this proclamation just days before his assassination.)

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.

Ronald Reagan, 1981 (From the first of President’s Reagan’s Thanksgiving Proclamations)

Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate…. Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks….As we celebrate Thanksgiving in 1981, we should reflect on the full meaning of this day as we enjoy the fellowship that is so much a part of the holiday festivities. Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789


By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

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— 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 and 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 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 has 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 trangressions; 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 shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true reli- gion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a de- gree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given by my hand at the City of New York the 3rd day of October, the year of our Lord 1789. Geo. Washington


Heart, Soul and Mind

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