Millions of American families will gather around the table today to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is the rarest of American holiday traditions. No fireworks. No gifts exchanged. Just some parades and a sharing of family ties and friendship. For a moment at least, we pause to appreciate that for all that still challenges us as a nation there is much to give thanks for.
Thanksgiving has been observed since the founding of the nation. Schoolchildren are taught that among the first such feasts was in 1621, when the Plymouth colonists sat down with the Wampanoag Indians to share a harvest meal. It was President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863 during a brutal and divisive Civil War, who formally proclaimed the Thanksgiving date as the final Thursday in November. Later, Franklin Roosevelt, days after the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, signed legislation establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving date. Both men understood that even in the depths of national turmoil, it was still important to dedicate a day to gratitude and pay homage to America's resilient ability to come together.
We should be thankful that in the wake of a fractious campaign season, the United States is still a nation that abides by a peaceful and nonviolent process to select its leadership. We also give thanks that the endless cycle of campaign commercials is at last over — for now.
We should be thankful that after years of grim financial news and a great recession, America is slowly but surely climbing its way back with improved employment rates and hopeful signs of a recovering economy. Now Washington needs to shed its bipartisan bickering to address the looming budget crisis and resolve its differences to enhance the modest gains that have been made.
We should be thankful that our troops have returned from the morass of Iraq and soon will be home from Afghanistan. The American military has given the full measure of honorable service to these two wars. It is time for our men and women in uniform to reclaim their rightful places at their own Thanksgiving tables.
Today we take a well-earned respite from the political cacophony, the worries over the economy, the tumult around the world. We will eat too much. We will watch too much football. We will spend a day as a family, as Americans united in a common purpose to give thanks for each other.
Black Friday will arrive all too soon as the Christmas season chaos descends upon us. But today is a day to give thanks for all our yesterdays and the hope for brighter tomorrows.