THANKING GOD FOR OUR BLESSINGS
Thanksgiving is one of America's most beloved holidays. It is a day devoted to turkey, family gatherings, football games, parades, and the beginning of the Christmas-holiday season. But it also should be a day devoted to giving thanks to God for our many blessings. It always has been.
Most of us learned about the Pilgrims conducting the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth Colony. To the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving was intended as a religious celebration to give thanks to God for helping them survive that first brutal year in the new world.
But before Thanksgiving became an annual tradition in 1863, and an official federal holiday in 1941, it was celebrated on a number of other occasions – and always as a day of giving thanks to God.
During the American Revolution, following the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that marked a turning point in the war, the Continental Congress approved a resolution proclaiming a day of “Thanksgiving and praise.” In his personal notes on the war, General George Washington wrote: “Tomorrow being the day set apart by the honorable Congress for Public Thanksgiving and praise, ... duty call[s] us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgments to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us.”
Following the establishment of the new government of the United States in 1789, President George Washington issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” designating a “day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” At President Washington's request, Americans assembled in churches to thank God for his blessings.
During the American Civil War, following the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln asked the people of the United States to set aside the last Thursday of November “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” “In the midst of a Civil War of unequal magnitude and severity,” President Lincoln proclaimed, the country should take a day to acknowledge the “gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
On this Thanksgiving, I would like to thank God for the young American men and women who will spend this holiday in harm's way protecting our country and the values we hold dear. And I thank God for the privilege of representing our beloved State and our great people in the U.S. Senate.
November 18, 2009