Without getting into the very tiresome discussions about the origins of Thanksgiving in America, Miss Constitution finds the Proclamations by Abraham Lincoln in March and October of 1863 to be fresh and relevant in addressing today’s quandary about America’s purpose and path. Part of the following is a call to penitence and reflection and part of the following is a call to gratefulness and appreciation. Each word, sentence, and paragraph is a testament to the genius of the 16th President of the United States, and each word, sentence, and paragraph is an admonition to “Awaken” delivered to each American person.
“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our reformation as a whole people?
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Americans have not only forgotten God, we have forgotten our mission as a nation. America’s mission is not to make the world safe for democracy; it is not to impose a political system on others that may be antithetical to their culture; it is not to provide positive material rights to anyone who finds his or her way into the country; and it is not to provide positive material rights to those already here. America’s mission is not about the group; it is not about racial, religious, or ethnic status; it is not about equal outcomes; it is not about equality outside equality under the law; and it is not about a presumption that we have “rightful” answers for problems in other nations that we impose by force of arms.
America’s mission is “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
This mission is about development of the person, not the group. It is about the journey each American takes in life on his or her way to finding virtue. It is about the Liberty granted to each person to get off track; to make mistakes; to injure others but make amends; to take sustenance for granted; to omit kindness where kindness is due; to forget to notice a child; to fail to be proper stewards of God’s creations; and to ignore the development of one’s soul.
America’s mission is unique in the world. What Lincoln is telling us is that America gains strength when she recognizes she has lost touch with her mission. America gains strength when her citizens understand and appreciate that the Liberty our society bestows on each of us carries with it the responsibility of gratefulness, humility, and self-control. Lincoln might also add that we must never be too proud to say “thank you” to the Author of our unalienable rights and the Provider of the Blessings of this Life.
Happy Thanksgiving – first proclaimed by George Washington; crusaded for by Sarah Josepha Hale; articulated by Abraham Lincoln; fixed on the calendar by Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and honored in each American family by all Americans who are grateful for a nation that, by mission, gives each living person a chance to find and practice The Virtuous Life.