Like all holidays in the modern age, Thanksgiving has drifted away from its origin and become a marketing tool rather than what it was intended to be: a day of giving thanks for our existence as a nation.
In 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation calling for a day of prayer and thanksgiving.
With reference to the revolution and the sacrifices thereof, Washington called upon the nation to set aside November 26, 1789 as a particular day to acknowledge “the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty ... 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 hath been pleased to confer upon us.”
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Locked in a struggle that could have put an end to much of what George Washington referred in his proclamation, Lincoln, at the urging of magazine editor Sarah J. Hale, put an annual day of thanksgiving on the calendar.
It caught on in the North and, eventually, everywhere and now comes down to us as a cherished national tradition.
On this Thanksgiving in the midst of family, turkey and breathless anticipation of Black Friday, let us take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the day.
Thanksgiving comes to us by the hands of two men who looked a black national future in the face.
Nothing in their American experience was certain.
They could not take national survival for granted as we so often do. They saw threats both foreign and domestic that would have broken lesser men.
In the depths of uncertainty, they sought to bring Americans together to give thanks for how far they had come and to pray for the nation.
On this Thanksgiving, in our own time of uncertainty, let us all take a moment to say a prayer of thanks for how far we have come and supplication for the future of our nation.
Let us truly be thankful, on this and every day, that we have the great privilege to be citizens of the United States of America.