Emily 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.