Certainly an attitude of giving thanks is deeply rooted in our nation. From the Pilgrims to the colonists, during America’s Revolutionary War and the forming of a new government with its constitution, requests for guidance and direction were frequently made by not only this country’s new inhabitants, but also by those who were helping to guide the forming process. Of those who stopped to give their heartfelt thanks and to express their deepest gratitude to the Creator for what had been so abundantly given, was our first president, George Washington,
In1789, Congress asked President George Washington for a formal proclamation that would set aside a time to be officially recognized as a day of public prayer and giving of thanks. That document reads in part as follows:
Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and… “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God…
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; …for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; …for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws… ; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
By his proclamation, President Washington demonstrated his high regard for not only his country, but also for the One who allowed and assisted that country to become the greatest one on the face of the earth.
As we observe Thanksgiving Day this week, let us keep in mind what it truly represents and what it cost our ancestors in terms of dedication, determination, and self-sacrifice. Let us pause to reflect on what we have been given and the duty we have to the marvelous gift and its true Giver.