Today the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday that is shared as a national holiday only by our Canadian friends to the north.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that encourages us to be thankful for what and who we have in our lives. It is also a holiday that celebrates, through the symbol of a feast, the fruits of labor. Production, the rewards of dedicated labor and ambition, was the reward the pilgrims reaped as a result of their work colonizing an untamed land.
Today, we can look at the feast as a metaphor, celebrating a uniquely American idea–the idea behind the original American Dream. Embrace a goal in life, work hard toward that goal in everything you do, and success will follow. The bountiful feast we enjoy is a reminder of that American ideal. Shortcuts and handouts will not produce such a feast–only hard work and dedication.
Much of what we have to be thankful for comes to us because of the freedoms secured to us by our government’s recognition of our natural right to those freedoms. As we recognize all we have to be thankful for, it’s important to remember the freedoms we enjoy, to appreciate them, to not take them for granted, and to defend them when necessary.
The first “Thanksgiving proclamation” was requested by Congress in 1789. It asked the president to recommend a day to the people for observing a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” that acknowledges the many favors that Americans received from Almighty God “especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
So much of what we advocate is illustrated in this proclamation: That rights do not come from the government, that they are not enjoyed because they are tolerated by a benevolent Congress, court, king, or president. Freedom and our rights come from nature. We are born with them intact, gifts from our Creator–whoever you envision that to be. Our constitution, our concept of a government exercising limited powers, and the idea that people create government in order to preserve their freedoms and rights is also on display.
Sadly these ideas are fading from our national memory. Schools seem to do their best to gloss over or omit this part of history so that future citizens at a young age are left ignorant of their claim to a birthright of freedom.
It is our job to keep this flame of freedom burning. To that end, we’re reprinting below the original text of George Washington’s first Thanksgiving Address.
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 whereas 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 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 which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, 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 hath 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 transgressions– 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 shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.