The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock 401 years ago, November 6. Those brave souls endured two long months at sea. Upon arrival, they were weary and hungry yet determined to create a new life in a new land.
Nearly half of their fellow travelers died during their first winter because of exposure, disease, and starvation. They persevered by fortifying their trust in God and forging a friendship with the Wampanoag Tribe of natives. The following year, after a successful harvest, 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans joined in the first day of Thanksgiving in America.
This event in history has been repeated regularly over the centuries. Nearly all Presidents have called the nation to prayer and thanksgiving.
President George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1787. He wrote, “Whereas 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… especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness… for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence… for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed… and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”
President Lincoln’s proclamation made on October 3, 1863, asked his fellow Americans to be grateful for “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies” and for the “watchful providence of Almighty God.”
In his proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving made on October 25, 1887, President Grover Cleveland reminded Americans of “the goodness and the mercy of God which has followed the American people during the past year… let all secular work and employment be suspended… with prayer and songs of praise give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all He has done.”
President Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation, made October 23, 1913, included these lines: “The season is at hand to turn in praise and thanksgiving to almighty God for his manifold blessings to us as a nation… Righteousness exalteth a nation and peace on earth goodwill toward men furnish the only foundation on which can be built the lasting achievements of the human spirit.”
In his 1987 Proclamation, President Regan reminded us, “Acknowledgement of dependence on God’s favor was, in fact, our fledgling Nation’s very first order of business. When the delegates to the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774, they overcame discord by uniting in prayer for our country. Despite the differences among them as they began their work, they found common voice in the 35th Psalm, which concludes with a verse of joyous gratitude, “And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.”
These presidential proclamations, and many more, reflect the essence of our national motto: In God We Trust. Psalm 33:12 proclaims, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” From our Bill of Rights to our bountiful land, Americans have been richly blessed. Let us always remember the foundation upon which our country was forged, and let us resolve to keep America beautiful with a trusting spirit of gratitude for God’s abundant blessings.
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