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  • Writer's pictureEmily Duke Hargan

Reflecting on Thanksgiving 2020

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

This year I am spending Thanksgiving in Florida in a hotel with my family. This is a departure from the norm for us. We would usually be spending the day lazily watching the Macy's parade, some football and stuffing ourselves crazy surrounded by family and friends. But 2020 has put us in the 'twilight zone' and this year's plans changed—so here I am celebrating Thanksgiving sitting poolside drinking a pina colada. I must admit I feel a little guilty for this indulgence because I know how important this holiday is and how grateful we all are for our families, our health and our well-being this year.

Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday and a tradition that should always be celebrated. The first Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 to a dinner shared between the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Wampanoug natives in celebration of an exceptionally good harvest that fall. Much later, President George Washington issued the first presidential Thanksgiving proclamation but that was not officially observed as a concurrent tradition by every president until Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on Thursday, November 26, 1863.

The shift we have experienced this year—what I called the 'twilight zone'—has caused a lot of pain and uncertainty for many families. Yet still, I think there is much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving. We are incredibly blessed to live in a country founded on an extraordinary idea—freedom. This year your Thanksgiving holiday plans may have changed (like ours did), but one thing has not: the timeless celebration of family and your freedom to do so.

I'd like to share a few quotes from Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations that I found particularly inspiring. I hope reflecting on them gives you a renewed sense of hope and a grateful heart for this country and for your fellow Americans.

Calvin Coolidge in 1925:

"As we have grown and prospered in material things, so also should we progress in moral and spiritual things. We are a God-fearing people who should set ourselves against evil and strive for righteousness in living, and observing the Golden Rule we should from our abundance help and serve those less fortunately placed. We should bow in gratitude to God for His many favors."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942:

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.

The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.

In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.

It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven."

Grover Cleveland in 1885:

"And let us by no means forget while we give thanks and enjoy the comforts which have crowned our lives that truly grateful hearts are inclined to deeds of charity, and that a kind and thoughtful remembrance of the poor will double the pleasures of our condition and render our praise and thanksgiving more acceptable in the sight of the Lord."

Ronald Reagan in 1981:

"In this spirit, Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Long before there was a government welfare program, this spirit of voluntary giving was ingrained in the American character. Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks."

I truly believe that the spirit of Thanksgiving is alive and well—even during these challenging times. This nation has continued to prosper since that very first feast in 1621, and I pray that your table will always be filled with abundance too, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. God bless.


Enjoy our exclusive Bourbon and Politics Be Thankful playlist on Spotify.

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Ryan Minor
27 nov 2020

Em, another wonderful post! Hope you all are having a wonderful Thanksgiving! We all need a reminder of the uniqueness of Thanksgiving and its importance both to our nation's history and our culture, and we can't let anyone take that away from us. It is also a holiday that represented the Pilgrim's English traditions of thankfulness to God for the fall harvest. I am blessed to have three ancestors at that first Thanksgiving table (William and Mary Brewster, and Isaac Allerton), and am proud that their celebration in the face of a lifetime of adversity and persecution was held with their welcoming neighbors who together helped forge what would become the greatest nation the world has ever known. God bless…

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