2011-11-24 / General Stories

Thanksgiving Day: Remembering Our Blessings & Giving Thanks - an American Tradition

by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle won, or honor an individual, or recognize a religious observance. Rather, it’s a day to remember our blessings as individuals, and the collective blessing of being Americans.

Our nation’s formative days underscore this. In 1621, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts set aside a day to celebrate their first successful harvest. They also rejoiced in the promise of living outside of oppression in Europe, and under the liberties that God intended for all mankind.

In 1787, President George Washington built on this initial Plymouth feast by issuing the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, and marking one day each year for Americans to give thanks for our nation’s prosperity. Nearly eight decades later, President Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of a catastrophic conflict that threatened to tear our nation apart, called his fellow citizens to reflect on their blessings as Americans. In his Thanksgiving remarks of 1863, he noted “ We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved, these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no nation has ever known.”

Today our nation faces a host of challenges. At home, 14 million Americans remain jobless; economic growth is stuck in slow motion. Hundreds of thousands of our men and women are deployed overseas to defend our country against a new breed of sinister enemies. But if America, under Lincoln’s leadership, could pause and offer thanks for life’s blessings during one of the darkest times in our history, our thankfulness in 2011 for family, friends, and community should be no less.

On this Thanksgiving, as so many of our military servicemen and women are separated from their loved ones, we should recognize how fortunate we are to be protected by our nation’s armed forces. It is because of those who have defended this nation - from the earliest days of the Revolutionary War to today’s Global War on Terror - we enjoy the liberties that have allowed us to grow and prosper. I encourage all Texans today to reach out to friends who have loved ones serving overseas, and especially thank them during this holiday.

The writer - and former Austinite and Houstonian - O’Henry once said, “Thanksgiving is the one day that is purely American.” Indeed it is - a simple national gesture of gratitude for being individuals with freedom and opportunity - and for being citizens of this great nation.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas

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