Giving Thanks for Lincoln’s Wisdom and America’s Blessing

150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an national holiday.

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Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

It fits. The history. The holiday. The President. And it is a much-needed remembrance now.

Like most Americans, I have long celebrated Thanksgivings among family and friends, watching football while the turkey roasts and acknowledging briefly that first feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans at Plymouth. Along with imagining an almost Disney-like image of that shared harvest's bounty, I usually take a moment to witness the abundance all around me. Quietly, I reflect and feel grateful for the blessings I have received. I even feel grateful for the sufferings I have endured for they've made me wiser – and more resilient. Then, as seems to be the way, my team's quarterback is intercepted and I wonder if we might lose. Life returns; desire replaces gratitude.

This year, however, is different. And for that, I am thankful.

For this year we are celebrating Thanksgiving's sesquicentennial. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared this traditional autumn feast day a national holiday.

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As the History Channel's website explains, Lincoln "at the height of the Civil War" issued this "proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to 'commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife' and to 'heal the wounds of the nation.'"

His words, as ever, ring clear and serve as a solemn reminder of our many blessings. Despite the seemingly intractable partisan polarization in our nation's politics, we are not now engaged in a Civil War, nor have we so recently experienced losses on the scale of those at Gettysburg. Our times are surely challenging and complex, but they are not anywhere near as difficult as they were then, nor are the consequences so dire.

Over the next few days, let us not only recall the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving feast, but also take the time to honor the many Americans who sacrificed so "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." For that is our nation's blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

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