Months after George Washington became the first President of the United States, both houses of Congress requested that the new American leader proclaim a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” Washington obliged and called on all Americans to “unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.”
Although the tradition of gathering to celebrate good fortunes was common for centuries among Native Americans, the pilgrims and even the Puritans, Washington’s 1787 Thanksgiving declaration would be the first time our newly born nation would come together to nationally reflect on the many blessings Americans share.
Since those initial days of Washington’s presidency, the evolution of Thanksgiving Day has come to pass, moving from a more somber day of observance to an established national holiday where large parades and festive turkey dinners became the forefront of Thanksgiving celebrations.
What used to be a day devoted to religious observance, the fourth Thursday in November now brings families and friends together to enjoy roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes next to scalloped potatoes, cranberry pudding and pumpkin pie, and, of course, day-long football games.
But while we gather among family and friends this Thanksgiving, let us remember that our forefathers summoned us together not only to celebrate, but to sincerely give thanks for the many blessings that we enjoy every day in this great country. Because no matter what is happening in the life of our country – whether in war or peace, in boom or bust, in triumph or tragedy – we are still so blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.
One of our nation’s greatest blessings is the courage and commitment of the men and women of our Armed Forces who stand guard around the world, preserving our freedom and protecting us from harm. They may not be with their families for the holiday, but they and their loved ones will be in our thoughts and prayers. As Gayle and I surround ourselves by loved ones, we will offer a special thanks for their service and sacrifice.
But as my parents once taught me, if you can count your blessings, you can share your blessings. I encourage all West Virginians to do the same this year as the holiday season officially kicks off. Take this time to serve, to spend time with those who are lonely, sick or less fortunate, and to reflect upon our values and beliefs with loved ones.
This year, I encourage all West Virginians to not forget Thanksgiving Day’s humble roots and embrace one of America’s favorite holidays by gathering together, saying grace, and reflecting on our many blessings.
On behalf of Gayle and our whole family, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. God bless America, and God bless the great state of West Virginia.