Wishing all my American friends a very Happy Thanksgiving! I am looking forward to enjoying turkey with all the trimmings at my brother and sister-in-law’s place; but I hope that all who celebrate will remember that this is, first and foremost, a day of Thanksgiving, and so pause to give thanks to God for all the remarkable benefits we enjoy, both as denizens of this good Earth, and as citizens of this great country. We are truly blessed! May we strive to be worth of that blessing.
Collect for Thanksgiving Day, The Book of Common Prayer 1928
O MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In common with many other Presidents, prior to the formal adoption of the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day (George Washington had issued the first Presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789), Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Thursday, November 29, 1906, to be a day of thanksgiving and supplication:
By the President of the United States of America.
The time of year has come when, in accordance with the wise custom of our forefathers, it becomes my duty to set aside a special day of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty because of the blessings we have received, and of prayer that these blessings may be continued. Yet another year of widespread well-being has past. Never before in our history or in the history of any other nation has a people enjoyed more abounding material prosperity than is ours; a prosperity so great that it should arouse in us no spirit of reckless pride, and least of all a spirit of heedless disregard of our responsibilities; but rather a sober sense of our many blessings, and a resolute purpose, under Providence, not to forfeit them by any action of our own.
Material well-being, indispensable tho it is, can never be anything but the foundation of true national great-ness and happiness. If we build nothing upon this foundation, then our national life will be as meaningless and empty as a house where only the foundation has been laid. Upon our material well-being must be built a superstructure of individual and national life lived in accordance with the laws of the highest morality, or else our prosperity itself will in the long run turn out a curse instead of a blessing. We should be both reverently thankful for what we have received, and earnestly bent upon turning it into a means of grace and not of destruction.
Accordingly I hereby set apart Thursday, the twenty-ninth day of November, next, as a day of thanksgiving and supplication, on which the people shall meet in their homes or their churches, devoutly to acknowledge all that has been given them, and to pray that they may in addition receive the power to use these gifts aright.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixt.
Done at the City of Washington this 22nd day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and six and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and thirty-first.
— Theodore Roosevelt
The account on the T.R. Center’s website also notes,
“Interestingly, this proclamation may be more cautionary than celebratory. Roosevelt declares the day of thanksgiving in a solemn tone that suggests that American citizens take their blessings for granted. He extorts the population to build upon their material prosperity in a meaningful manner so that this prosperity is not wasted. Considering how sober the final proclamation is, it is more surprising to see the content Roosevelt removed. The document in our digital library clearly shows what the president removed from his original manuscript, the language of which was much harsher. In the sentences that were removed, TR discusses ‘our own folly, weakness or wickedness,’ and expounds upon the theme of disaster that would surely come if Americans are not careful with their ‘material well-being.'”
Indeed. As true now, or more, than it was in 1906!