President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and President Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War, asking Americans to give thanks with “one heart and one voice.” Since then, Americans have gathered with family and friends and given thanks for our blessings.
This week, as we celebrate our history and join together as a community, I find myself reading the proclamations of previous presidents. Today I want to share with you the words from Presidential Obama’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from 2016.
“Nearly 400 years ago, a small band of Pilgrims fled persecution and violence and came to this land as refugees in search of opportunity and the freedom to practice their faith. Though the journey was rough and their first winter harsh, the friendly embrace of an indigenous people, the Wampanoag — who offered gracious lessons in agriculture and crop production — led to their successful first harvest. The Pilgrims were grateful they could rely on the generosity of the Wampanoag people, without whom they would not have survived their first year in the new land, and together they celebrated this bounty with a festival that lasted for days and prompted the tradition of an annual day of giving thanks.”
Like George and Annemarie Roeper, refugees fleeing religious persecution have historically found sanctuary on our shores. Whether the community we are building is our family, our school, our city, or our world; the words of President Obama remind us that our continued effort at building stronger bonds, caring for those struggling to make a better life, and respecting differences in one another must be an unceasing goal.
Like the Pilgrims, we too, live in times of change and transition, and yet, surrounded by the young people in our school how can we not be filled with hope, how can we not be inspired by the future they will guide. Watching a student master a reading lesson, seeing a child find joy in telling a story she has written, performing in an incredible Broadway show, mentoring middle schoolers at camp, or leading a team to a successful season; our children are filled with a creative spirit, and a deep sense of curiosity and wonder – we are blessed.
Presidents of all political background will continue to proclaim the fourth Thursday in November a day of Thanksgiving, but we don’t need a special day to understand how much we have to be thankful for when we see our children embrace a genuine love of learning.
I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!