31 Presidents have issued official Thanksgiving proclamations beginning with George Washington. Thanksgiving was made an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation began an unbroken chain of yearly thanksgiving proclamations made by U.S. Presidents.
Thanksgiving Proclamations – George H.W. Bush
Proclamation 6073 – THANKSGIVING DAY, 1989
November 17, 1989
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION
On Thanksgiving Day, we Americans pause as a Nation to give thanks for the freedom and prosperity with which we have been blessed by our Creator. Like the pilgrims who first settled in this land, we offer praise to God for His goodness and generosity and rededicate ourselves to lives of service and virtue in His sight.
This annual observance of Thanksgiving was a cherished American tradition even before our first President, George Washington, issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. In his first Inaugural Address, President Washington observed that “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” He noted that the American people – blessed with victory in their fight for Independence and with an abundance of crops in their fields – owed God “some return of pious gratitude.” Later, in a confidential note to his close advisor, James Madison, he asked “should the sense of the Senate be taken on … a day of Thanksgiving?” George Washington thus led the way to a Joint Resolution of Congress requesting the President to set aside “a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal Favors of Almighty God.”
Through the eloquent words of President Washington’s initial Thanksgiving proclamation – the first under the Constitution – we are reminded of our dependence upon our Heavenly Father and of the debt of gratitude we owe to Him. “It is the Duty of all Nations,” wrote Washington, “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.”
President Washington asked that on Thanksgiving Day the people of the United States:
unite in rendering unto [God] our sincere and humble Thanks for his kind Care and Protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation; 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 … for all the great and various Favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
Two hundred years later, we continue to offer thanks to the Almighty – not only for the material prosperity that our Nation enjoys, but also for the blessings of peace and freedom. Our Nation has no greater treasures than these.
As we pause to acknowledge the kindnesses God has shown to us – and, indeed, His gift of life itself – we do so in a spirit of humility as well as gratitude. When the United States was still a fledgling democracy, President Washington asked the American people to unite in prayer to the “great Lord and ruler of Nations,” in order to:
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, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations … and to bless them with good Government, peace and Concord.
Today, we, too, pause on Thanksgiving with humble and contrite hearts, mindful of God’s mercy and forgiveness and of our continued need for His protection and guidance. On this day, we also remember that one gives praise to God not only through prayers of thanksgiving, but also through obedience to His commandments and service to others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.
While some Presidents followed Washington’s precedent, and some State Governors did as well, President Lincoln – despite being faced with the dark specter of civil war – renewed the practice of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. This venerable tradition has been sustained by every President since then, in times of strife as well as times of peace and prosperity.
Today, we continue to offer thanks and praise to our Creator, that “Great Author of every public and private good,” for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. In so doing, we recall the timeless words of the 100th Psalm:
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 1989, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the American people to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us and our Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fourteenth.
Proclamation 6229 of November 14, 1990
THANKSGIVING DAY, 1990
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION
In the first Presidential Thanksgiving Day proclamation, George Washington observed that “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.” As a people who have long enjoyed unparalleled material prosperity and the priceless blessings of peace and freedom, we Americans cannot fail to fulfill this great, yet joyous, duty. Thus, we pause each year on Thanksgiving Day to express our gratitude for the goodness and generosity of our Creator and to ask His continued protection and guidance in all our endeavors, both as individuals and as a Nation.
The observance of Thanksgiving was a cherished tradition in America long before George Washington called his countrymen “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.” Indeed, we trace the tradition of giving thanks back to some of the earliest settlers in this country – not only the Pilgrims at Plymouth but also early colonists at Jamestown, New Amsterdam, and St. Augustine. With hands clasped in prayer and hearts full of gratitude, these men and women gave public thanks to God for having been sustained through times of hardship and peril.
William Bradford’s account of the experience of the settlers at Plymouth Colony is not only a moving description of the trials of emigration to a wilderness but also captures their profound faith and contains a timeless exhortation to succeeding generations:
Being thus passed the vast ocean … they had now no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies, no houses or much less towns to repair to … And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent … Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness? … Neither could they, as it were, go to the top of Pisgah, to view from this wilderness a more godly country to feed their hopes, for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upwards to the heavens) they could have little solace or content … what could now sustain them but the spirit of God and His grace? They cried to the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies endure for ever.
The historic observance of a day of thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621 was one of many occasions on which our ancestors paused to acknowledge their dependence on the mercy and favor of Divine Providence. Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, likewise observed during a season of celebration and harvest, we have added cause for rejoicing: the seeds of democratic thought sown on these shores continue to take root around the world. In Central and Eastern Europe, in Latin America, and elsewhere, courageous men and women are beginning to reap the blessings of freedom and self-government. Peoples who once suffered under the heavy yoke of totalitarianism have begun to claim the liberty to which all are heirs.
Our gratitude for the rights and opportunities we enjoy as Americans may be measured by how carefully we use and preserve these gifts, as when we cultivate in our children a love of freedom and an understanding of the responsibilities that freedom demands of us. We tend the precious blossom of our liberty when we recall the example of our ancestors and strive to ensure that our own lives are firmly rooted in faith. Like our forebears, we must cherish the values and beliefs that are the foundation of strong, loving families and caring communities and recognize the importance of learning and hard work, because these are the wellspring of progress and prosperity.
The great freedom and prosperity with which we have been blessed is cause for rejoicing – and it is equally a responsibility. Indeed, Scripture tells us that much will be asked of those to whom much has been given. Our “errand in the wilderness,” begun more than 350 years ago, is not yet complete. Abroad, we are working toward a new partnership of nations. At home, we seek lasting solutions to the problems facing our Nation and pray for a society “with liberty and justice for all,” the alleviation of want, and the restoration of hope to all our people.
This Thanksgiving, as we enjoy the company of family and friends, let us gratefully turn our hearts to God, the loving Source of all Life and Liberty. Let us seek His forgiveness for our shortcomings and transgressions and renew our determination to remain a people worthy of His continued favor and protection. Acknowledging our dependence on the Almighty, obeying His Commandments, and reaching out to help those who do not share fully in this Nation’s bounty is the most heartfelt and meaningful answer we can give to the timeless appeal of the Psalmist: “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good: for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Finally, on this Thanksgiving Day, let us also remember all those Americans abroad who labor to advance the ideals for which this great Nation stands. Whether Peace Corps volunteers or military or diplomatic personnel, these selfless individuals often accept great personal risks and sacrifices to serve our country. Let us remember, in particular, those Americans held hostage and members of the Armed Forces serving in the Persian Gulf region. On this day, let us pray for their well-being and their safe return to the United States. And let us be thankful that such fine men and women are still willing to answer the call of duty to country and to defend the cause of liberty.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the American people to observe Thursday, November 22, 1990, as a National Day of thanksgiving and to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifteenth.
Thanksgiving Day Message to American Troops
November 21, 1990
As we gather together for Thanksgiving this year, America has much to be truly grateful for. To those of you who are spending this holiday away from your loved ones to defend our nation’s security and that of our allies, I am deeply grateful. To those of you on duty in the Persian Gulf, I say a special thank you.
Recent events prove the world is still a dangerous and unstable place. Along with the triumph of freedom around the world comes new challenges, especially in the Middle East. Once again, you, the men and women of our Armed Forces, have responded to the call of duty to protect freedom and stand firm against aggression. And once again, you have the full support of the American people and the thanks of this President.
You know, Barbara and I have spent a lot of Thanksgivings with a family we’re proud of. Well, this year is no different, as we spend Thanksgiving in the Persian Gulf. And as Americans celebrate this special day back home, know that you are in their hearts. America is proud of you and the job you’re doing. Almost 2 years ago, I began my Inaugural Address with a prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in all that we face. Earlier this month, with American troops facing down aggression overseas, I asked the Nation to join me in prayer, a prayer for the brave service men and women in whom we entrust the future of this country — as well as for those Americans held hostage. Now, this Thanksgiving, I hope that all Americans of all faiths and walks of life will bow their heads in appreciation for God’s power to protect us and His wisdom to guide us.
As members of our Armed Forces worldwide, your strength and readiness allow the flames of freedom and democracy to glow brightly. You represent America’s best — the world’s best hope for the future. No matter where you are, I hope you’re safe and well. The entire Bush family wishes you and your family a happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you and bring you home safely and soon.
Remarks During a Thanksgiving Day Service on Board the U.S.S. Nassau in the Persian Gulf
November 22, 1990
Thank you, Chaplain Bebee. And let me thank Captain Dow. Let me, on behalf of Barbara and myself and the four congressional leaders that are with us — the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom Foley; the leader of the United States Senate, George Mitchell; the minority leader of the House, Bob Michel; and the minority leader of the Senate, Bob Dole — express to all of you our joy at being here and our great respect for what all aboard Nassau and all that are out here from other units, including our CINC, General Schwarzkopf, are doing. It’s a joy to be with you. And I want to thank once again Captain Dow and the ship’s company for, I know, an unusual amount of arrangements that go with one of these visits. But we promise to leave on time. [Laughter]
Barbara and I treasure this distinctly American sense of sharing with the families and friends in the faith of our fathers. For many of us, this is a time of contemplation about things greater than ourselves, an opportunity to seek perspective. I notice that Chaplain Bebee called his sermon a meditation. And I’m reminded of the story of the kid that went to church with his grandfather. And he said to the grandfather, “Grandfather, what are all the flags there along the side of the church?” The grandfather said, “Well, that’s for those who died in service.” The kid said, “Oh, really? The 9 o’clock or the 11 o’clock service?” And I noticed how brief your chaplain was, and I will try to be the same.
I notice that both Chaplain Dallmann and Chaplain Bebee referred to the Pilgrim fathers. In the early days, Americans gave thanks for the Lord’s many blessings. And those, as was pointed out to us here today in the meditation, were indeed hard times — times of privation, lonely times in foreign surroundings, dangerous times, fearful, perilous. What is so remarkable about the first Thanksgiving is that those hearty souls were giving thanks in an age of extreme adversity, recognizing the Lord’s bounty during extraordinary hardship, understanding that his bounty is not in things material but more importantly in things spiritual.
I reminded some at an Army base a while ago that this reminds me a bit of a Thanksgiving that I spend 46 years ago on a carrier, U.S.S. San Jacinto CVL30, off the coast of the Philippines during World War II. I found then that the Lord does provide many blessings to men and women who face adversity in the name of a noble purpose. They are the blessings of faith and friendship, strength and determination, courage and camaraderie and dedication to duty. And I found that the Lord allows the human spirit the inner resolve to find optimism and hope amidst the most challenging and difficult times. He instills confidence when despair tries to defeat us and inspires teamwork when the individual feels overwhelmed by the events of day to day.
Thanksgiving reminds us of America’s most cherished values. Freedom was, indeed, as we’ve heard from our chaplain, the watchword for the Mayflower’s journey. Freedom united the Pilgrims in a common purpose. Freedom was the idea that inspired the first Thanksgiving of the colony there at Plymouth Bay.
The grand experiment called America is but a recent manifestation of humanity’s timeless yearning to be free. Only in freedom can we achieve humanity’s greatest hope: peace. From the wisdom of Solomon to the wonder of the Sermon on the Mount, from the prophecies of Isaiah to the teachings of Islam, the holy books that are our common heritage speak often of the many blessings bestowed upon mankind, often of the love of liberty, often of the cause of peace. And so, I would like to close these remarks with a prayer.
Lord, bless us and keep us. Show us your way, the way of liberty and love. Soften the hearts of those who would do us harm. Strengthen the hearts of those who protect and defend us. Sustain the hearts of those at home who pray for our safe return. We rely upon your guidance and trust in your judgment, for we are one nation under God. Amidst this threat of war, help us find the will to search for peace. As was said upon the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Amen.
Thank you all very much for inviting these four congressional leaders, for inviting Barbara and me to share this very special day with the sailors, the marines, the coast-guardsmen all out here aboard the U.S.S. Nassau today on this spectacularly beautiful day halfway around the world from the home that we love.
I cannot overstate to you the outpouring of support from your friends and families. General Schwarzkopf was telling me of the mail system here: You get a lot of mail that doesn’t even have a name on it, and they spread it all around. I hope some of you have received it. And it does express the support that the American people have for you on this important mission.
So, God bless you all on this very special day. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Proclamation 6380 – THANKSGIVING DAY, 1991
November 25, 1991
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION
From the moment it was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” our Nation has enjoyed the mercy and protection of Almighty God. Thus, when we join with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we celebrate not only the many blessings that we have received as individuals – including the gift of life itself – but also our great fortune as one nation under God. On this occasion, Americans of every race, creed, and walk of life are united by a profound sense of gratitude and duty.
As we continue the Thanksgiving tradition, a tradition cherished by every generation of Americans, we reflect in a special way on the blessings of the past year. When this Nation and its coalition partners took up arms in a last-resort effort to repel aggression in the Persian Gulf, we were spared the terrible consequences of a long and protracted struggle. Indeed, the millions of people who prayed for a quick end to the fighting saw those prayers answered with a swiftness and certainty that exceeded all expectations. During the past year, we have also witnessed the demise of communism and welcomed millions of courageous people into the community of free nations.
Of course, as we give thanks for these and other developments, we also remember the less fortunate – those who do not yet share in the promise of freedom; those who do not know the comfort of peace and security; and those whose tables do not reflect prosperity and plenty.
Time and again, Scripture describes our Creator’s special love for the poor. As the Psalmist wrote, “He pours contempt upon princes … yet sets the poor on high from affliction.” In this great nation, we have a special obligation to care for the ill and the destitute. Therefore, recalling that much will be asked of those to whom much has been given, let us resolve to make food drives and other forms of charity an increasingly important part of our Thanksgiving tradition.
On this occasion, as we count our blessings and reach out to help the less fortunate, we also do well to remember that, in many ways, the poorest nations are those who neither recognize nor revere what our Founders called “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Indeed, we have seen totalitarian regimes impoverish entire peoples, not just economically, but spiritually, by denigrating religion and by denying the inherent dignity and worth of individuals. The moral bankruptcy of communism should remind every free nation of the dangers of cynicism and materialism.
Similarly, can any individual be truly rich or truly satisfied if he or she has not discovered the rewards of service to one’s fellowman? Since most of us first experience the love of God through the goodness and generosity of others, what better gift could we give our children than a positive example?
Finally, as we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we know that our greatest blessings are not necessarily material ones. Indeed, perhaps the best thing about this occasion is that it reminds us that God loves each and every one of us. Like a faithful and loving parent, He always stands ready to comfort, guide, and forgive. That is our real cause for Thanksgiving, today and every day of our lives.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 28, 1991, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I urge all Americans to gather together in their homes and in places of worship on that day to offer thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings that He has bestowed upon us as individuals and as a Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixteenth.
Thanksgiving Address to the Nation
November 27, 1991
From Camp David, Barbara and I would like to wish all Americans a joyous Thanksgiving. This holiday has always had a special meaning for the Bush family, as it does for most Americans. Thanksgiving captures our spirit as a people: Our determination, our generosity, our industry, and our faith.
Thanksgiving brings to mind the joys of plenty and the anguish of want. As Americans celebrated Thanksgiving in 1777, George Washington and his troops huddled along the banks of the Delaware River. Buffeted by the brutal cold, haunted by British troops massed over the horizon, they stopped to offer humble words of thanks and praise, and to dedicate themselves to the cause of building a land of prosperous liberty. That simple moment helped establish the American character. Our founders’ faith and determination transformed this land from a patchwork of colonies into a republic of ideals.
This Thanksgiving, many of us join friends and family around the table; others share time by phoning loved ones far away; and all of us will think of others. In places of worship across the land, people contribute canned goods or turkeys or clothing. They share their blessings with people suffering through tough times. And that’s as it should be. Americans always have expressed their thanks by serving others.
Many people wonder how a President understands what goes on outside Washington, especially to people struggling to make ends meet. Of course, statistics paint a sobering picture: Unemployment, tight credit, lower home values, sluggish job growth. But real life speaks far more eloquently than bare numbers. I have traveled to 48 States since becoming President: Talking, meeting people, listening, learning. I will continue traveling around our great country because that’s one way a President stays in touch with people.
Recently, many Americans have written me, saying they want me to know and understand that hard times have hurt them. They don’t pull any punches. One man, who lost his job in September, described how he and his wife struggle to support two children at home, pay the bills, and keep up their property while he seeks work. “Mr. President,” he wrote, “now is the time to come to the aid of the American people. The American people need to know that you mean what you say.” A woman, who typed beneath her signature the words, “Average Middle American,” was just as blunt. Her husband recently lost his job, and she wrote that “it’s pretty thorny out there.”
Well, I do understand. I am concerned. And I want to help. I know that for a person out of a job, the unemployment rate is 100 percent.
As a Nation, we need to address today’s problems and tomorrow’s promise in a new world united in economic competition, not frozen in nuclear conflict.
Over the years we have built a strong foundation for progress in this new, revitalized world. Inflation is down. Interest rates have fallen to the lowest level in years. This year we will export billions of dollars more in goods and services than ever before, and that means good jobs for American men and women.
This doesn’t mean that we ought to sit back and hope for the best. We must take strong steps to move ahead. I have asked Congress to pass an important series of initiatives to boost our economy. These include tax incentives to unleash investment, reforms to help our banks do their job, proposals to set loose a revolution in American education, initiatives to keep health care costs down. Taken together, these proposals would let Americans do more, produce more, dream more, dare more. They would create more jobs, good jobs, for American workers.
Unfortunately, Congress did not send me a comprehensive package of economic growth measures. But we can’t take “no” for an answer.
Now, I know we’re about to enter an election year. And I know that both parties will spend a lot of time taking tough shots at one another. In our system of government, the opposition will attack the President aggressively. There is nothing new about this. But when people are hurting, a President cannot accept politics as usual.
Congress left town after a particularly bitter session. We now have a few weeks in which elected officials can cool off and hear from the people they serve. In this time we can build a foundation for greater prosperity. I will continue taking what independent steps I can to help the economy like fighting to create opportunities in foreign markets for American workers. I’ll make sure that administration agencies do everything they can to help the people, from getting unemployment checks out to easing the credit crunch. And I will insist that we get the money in our transportation bill out right away to build roads, fix bridges, and create jobs.
When I give the State of the Union speech in January, I will ask Congress to lay aside election-year politics at least long enough to enact a commonsense series of economic growth measures. I will ask politicians to restrain their personal ambitions at least long enough to get the job done. Afterward, the normal election-year battling can resume.
Politicians should remember that hot rhetoric won’t fill an empty stomach. It won’t create a job. It won’t get the people’s business done. Americans don’t care about finger pointing in Washington, and they certainly have no tolerance for politicians who use tough times for political advantage. So, I will continue to place top priority on the issues you care about: Building a growing economy, world-class schools, and what our founders called “public tranquility,” a kinder, gentler Nation rid of crime and united by bonds of brotherhood and service.
Every day, as I confront the tasks ahead of us, I think of the people we serve: The family struggling to make ends meet; police risking everything to keep peace on the streets. I thank God for our teachers, who must serve as psychologists, doctors, social workers, and peacekeepers before getting a chance to teach the three R’s. And I do care about the people who write me letters, especially people in trouble, people out of work.
Finally, I also remember the American people I have seen in every State and on virtually every continent: People who will not take no for an answer, people with a zest for life, people who love their country.
Americans don’t ignore tough realities; we tackle them. We don’t wallow in self-pity or despair. We shove obstacles aside and make life better. Optimism, opportunity, realism, determination: These are oxygen to us; they let our society live and breathe. America grew strong with the help of the greatest resource on Earth, the American people. As we look ahead, we should be as realistic about our strengths as we are about our problems. Every time I talk with Americans, I see our strength, and I feel all the more determined to do what you elected me to do: Foster growth, keep the peace, and maintain our stature as the world’s greatest Nation, the standard by which all other countries measure themselves.
Two years ago, I talked to the Nation on the eve of Thanksgiving about the challenges posed by the collapse of communism. We met those challenges.
One year ago today, Barbara and I stood in the sands of Saudi Arabia, looking into the eyes of the finest men and women this country has ever known. I wondered whether I would have to send those young people into battle. We were a Nation on edge, anxious about what lay ahead in the Persian Gulf. No one knew how it would work out.
But look at what they did, what we did. We pulled together. We fought for principle. We stood up to aggression. And when our men and women returned home, remember how we felt: Proud, excited, confident, even relieved, all because we knew that we did the right thing.
Today, democracy is on the march around the globe. Nations long enslaved have begun experimenting with liberty, exploring their own promise as free people. America led the way to this new world. We met the test of world leadership.
Just as we’ve met every challenge in the past, we will meet those that confront us today. As we do, let us remember who we are and what we’ve done. Let’s give thanks for our blessings, for our families, and our faith. Let’s dedicate ourselves to the hard work this moment demands. Let’s pledge to join hands in common purpose.
That’s the Thanksgiving spirit, and it has lifted us since the Pilgrims first celebrated it more than three centuries ago. Now let’s call upon that spirit today to help those in need. Let’s call upon that spirit as we move toward a new year and look forward to a new century.
Thank you. May God bless all of you and our great land, the United States of America.
Proclamation 6508 – THANKSGIVING DAY, 1992
November 20, 1992
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION
At no time of year are Americans more mindful of our heritage as one Nation under God than at Thanksgiving – a day when people of every race, creed, and walk of life join in celebrating the many blessings that we have received as individuals and as a Nation. Thanksgiving is among the happiest of days because it fills our hearts with appreciation for the things that matter most: the goodness of our Creator, the love of family and friends, and, of course, the gift of life itself. In addition to giving thanks for our individual blessings, we Americans also join on this occasion in celebrating our shared legacy of freedom.
Since the earliest days of our Republic, Americans have been deeply aware of our indebtedness to the Almighty and our obligations as a people He has blessed. Even in the course of long, difficult journeys to these shores, our ancestors gratefully acknowledged the sustaining power or God – and the faithfulness they owed in return. Recognizing their quest for freedom as an enterprise no less historic than the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, John Winthrop reminded his fellow pilgrims in 1630:
Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place that we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, [and] will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it … to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.
By remaining grateful for, and faithful to, that divine commission, America has become a model of freedom and justice to the world – as our pilgrim ancestors envisioned, a shining “city upon a hill.”
Ever grateful for our freedom and security, we Americans have worked to share these blessings with others, and today we rejoice in the fact that the seeds of democratic thought sown on these shores more than 300 years ago continue to blossom around the globe. Yet, even as we give thanks for the demise of imperial communism and for the current harvest of liberty throughout the world, like our ancestors we also recall our duties as stewards of this great and blessed land. As General Dwight Eisenhower said during World War II:
The winning of freedom is not to be compared to the winning of a game, with the victory recorded forever in history. Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirits of men, and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.
The liberty that we enjoy today is clearly rooted in our Nation’s Judeo-Christian moral heritage and in the timeless values that have united Americans of all religions and all walks of life: love of God and family, personal responsibility and virtue, respect for the law, and concern for others. If the American Experiment is to continue to bear fruit in generations to come, we must cultivate those values in our children and teach them, by word and example, the difference between liberty and license, between the grateful exercise of freedom and the misuse of our precious rights.
This Thanksgiving, as we reflect on our Nation’s heritage and give thanks to God for our many blessings, let us renew the solemn commitment that John Winthrop and his fellow pilgrims made more than 300 years ago. At a time when so many of the world’s peoples look to America’s example, let us stand for a liberty “to that only which is good, just, and honest.” Mindful, too, that “he that gives to the poor lends to the Lord,” let us reach out with generosity to persons in need – strangers who are hungry and homeless, neighbors who are sick or lonely, and loved ones who are eager for our time, attention, and encouragement.
I am both confident and grateful that – in the future, as in the past – this thanksgiving tradition will continue to bind us in appreciation of life’s greatest blessings: our families and friends, our rich heritage of freedom, and, most of all, the unchanging wisdom and presence of Almighty God.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 26, 1992, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I urge all Americans to gather in their homes and in places of worship on that day to offer thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings that He has granted us as individuals and as a Nation. May we always strive to remain worthy of them.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.