One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln made the last Thursday in November a national holiday. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that our country would always observe Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Both acts solidified a practice that began early in our nation's history, with Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to celebrate survival. Fast forward several generations. Despite the challenges of our day, there are many reasons to give thanks.
Now acted out by schoolchildren across the nation in skits and songs, one of the first Thanksgivings took place in 1621. That feast brought together the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag Indians. The three-day event focused on sharing and gratitude.
May we mimic the settlers and their neighbors today, seeing through the cacophony of daily life to find the good. We should look beyond the partisan politics of Washington and celebrate the economy, growing modestly but on the upswing. We should cheer a falling unemployment rate and appreciate a health care law that, although seriously flawed in its rollout, should provide coverage for millions of uninsured. And we should give thanks for members of the military, who put themselves in harm's way for our country, and for their families, who share them with the nation.
Of course challenges persist. Because of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, rising rates put coverage out of reach for many. But property insurance has regained some stability after several thankful years of no hurricanes. In Florida, Citizens Property Insurance again is becoming the insurer of last resort while the private market services less risky policies.
Today could find airplane travelers stranded or delayed, or drivers on roadways slickened by a wintery mix of ice, rain and snow. Once travelers reach their destinations, they will likely take comfort in what this holiday is all about — family, friends, food and, for some, football. In Florida, we should give thanks for the end of hurricane season and the eighth consecutive year the state escaped a direct hit.
For many, Thanksgiving brings out bargain hunters, while others express disgust that commercialism threatens to overtake the day. The obsession with snagging early-bird deals, and those who are repelled by it, represent the most American of ideals: the opportunity to choose to participate or not. For now, silence that debate, gather round a table, nestle a TV tray on your lap or slide deeper into an uncomfortable airport chair and reflect on good things. Despite all of our personal and collective challenges, there is much for which to give thanks.