By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Recently the eyes of the country have been focused on the hotly contested Presidential election and our economic downturn, but it is important to remember that as a nation, we have many reasons to give thanks. Each year, across Virginia and throughout the country, Americans set aside a special day to express gratitude for the many blessings we have received.
In 1789 President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26th of that year, a day of national Thanksgiving. At the request of the President, Americans assembled in houses of worship to thank God for his many blessings. But there was discord among the colonies and many were opposed to the holiday citing that the hardships the Pilgrims had faced did not warrant a national holiday. Despite President Washington proclaiming another Thanksgiving Day in 1795, the national celebration of this holiday was soon forgotten.
It is thanks to the steadfast efforts of magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale that we now celebrate the holiday we know as Thanksgiving. Ms. Hale wrote, “Would it not be a great advantage, socially, nationally, religiously, to have the day of our American Thanksgiving positively settled? ... it would be more noble, more truly American, to become national in unity when we offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year.”
After a 40 year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale’s efforts came to fruition when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Tuesday in November to be a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863. He did so as a gesture of unity in the midst of the turmoil of the Civil War. Lincoln believed that it seemed fit and proper that prosperity and freedom were God’s gift and should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by all the American people.
On December 26, 1941, Congress finally affirmed that decree and declared that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year.
Thanksgiving has become one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the United States. For my family, Thanksgiving has always been a time to give thanks to God and to help those who may be less fortunate.
This Thanksgiving Day, I hope that you will have the opportunity to spend time with your family and reach out to those in need around you. I hope that you will give thanks for this wonderful democracy in which we live - the land of the free, and the home of the brave. God bless you all, and from my family to yours - happy Thanksgiving.