The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Spotlight: Be Thankful!

Jim Clayton, Quill Reporter

Many ideas for an article about Thanksgiving are available. There is the fact that, according to a study done by Purdue University, cranberries and turkeys are in abundance and the prices will be very affordable this season.

We could talk about the wind of change that is blowing in Washington DC, or the current state of our economy or the unpredictable cost of fuels. But that would not make us thankful.

"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such further blessing as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success:"

So begins the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation issued by the Congress of the United States of America.

Some historical facts would help to shed some light on what this country was dealing with when this was written.

We had not even been a country for two years as this was issued November 1, 1777. We were in the infancy of the war that gained us our independence from England; the close of the war did not occur officially until 1783. The men of this country were dying in large numbers, and the people of this country were not seeing it on CNN or FOX News, they were seeing it in the backyards, the cornfields, and the mountainous outcrops of this country.

Thanksgiving did not become an official national holiday until October 3, 1863, while the country was in the throes of another war, where only Americans were dying- The Civil War.

"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God." This was the opening of Lincoln's proclamation.

Popular historian, Steve Tally, suggested we take a look at the Thanksgiving holiday through the eyes of the Depression starved United States. "FDR, wrote his Thanksgiving proclamation in an attempt to move the Holiday up a week, as a Depression era stimulus package," said Tally. "Pressure from powerful retailers made Roosevelt move the date up a week and allow each state to decide whether they would celebrate on the new date or the original."

Roosevelt did, in fact attempt to change the date in 1939, but with not much success. Many states did not use his suggestions and a couple used both the original, and the new. The country was officially divided over Thanksgiving. This continued for two years until congress, on December 26, 1941 decided that Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November. (Source, How FDR Changed Thanksgiving, by Jennifer Rosenberg). The turmoil around Roosevelt's change came not only in the midst of the Great Depression, but also as the Second World War was raging in Europe. Tensions again were high as the USA was facing the inevitable call to arms that came on December 7, 1941.

FDR did issue a proclamation during the Depression but it was on November 21, 1933, "May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all people to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the bettering of mankind."

Yes, things are changing, as they always do, and we will be fine. Proclamations are made, prices go up and come down, faces in high office have to change, and we, the people, can change with them.

The citizenry of the United States is resilient.

We are thankful for the freedoms provided for us by those who serve in harm's way, the stalwart professionals of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and all of those serving in National Guard and Reserve units here and abroad. When the above proclamations were made, they were there, assuring us another day for which to be thankful. Words could never express our gratitude or our debt, but THANK YOU.