November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Uniquely Reflects American Character

One of the eight historical paintings in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol depicts the departure of the Pilgrims for the New World in 1620.  In the painting, the Pilgrims are kneeling in prayer, some with heads bowed, others looking to the heavens, all asking for Divine protection through what they knew would be a perilous voyage.

The painting depicts one of the defining moments in the history of America.  And its placement in the very heart of our Capitol underscores the uniqueness of our country, the first nation ever to acknowledge our dependence on God and to express our gratitude for His many blessings with a day of thanksgiving.

We did so with the first Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington in 1789, declaring that God had allowed the establishment of a country that could be “a blessing to all the people” if its government is one of “wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.”

One of the first steps toward the establishment of such a country came when those brave Pilgrims set sail nearly four centuries ago for the uncharted New World. They persevered, as every American school child knows. And in 1621, when they had gained a foothold on this strange new continent with hard work and a bountiful harvest, they celebrated with a feast and a day of prayerful thanks for God’s many blessings – the very first Thanksgiving.

No other national holiday reflects the American character more than Thanksgiving. It is the one day in the year that the entire American “family” gathers together to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy in this great country. We do so 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 kneel in prayer, some with heads bowed, others looking to the heavens.

It is easy to forget how truly blessed we are to live in a country with the greatest liberties and freedoms in the world. It is easy to forget because our nation faces great challenges – a budget deficit, a jobs deficit and partisan political gridlock that has led many Americans to lose faith in the ability of government to work together to get things done.

Even with all our challenges, however, America remains the shining “city on the hill,” in the words of John Winthrop, who led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630 following the Pilgrims’ establishment of the Plymouth Colony.

We should take heart that even in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first nationwide celebration of Thanksgiving, expressing gratitude for “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies” and a prayer to God to “heal the wounds of the nation,” to comfort the war victims and to restore the peace.

Among our nation’s greatest blessings are the men and women of our armed forces who stand guard around the world, preserving our freedom and protecting us from those who would destroy us. They will not be with their families for the holiday, but they and their loved ones will be in my prayers.

Every year, when Gayle and I join our family around our Thanksgiving table, we hold hands, say grace and reflect on our many blessings. And every year, we offer special thanks for the sacrifice and service of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States of America. And we pray that every one of them will return safely to their homes – and to a grateful nation.

Every Thanksgiving, I also recall one of the most important lessons my parents taught me: If you can count your blessings, you can share your blessings. That is why I have spent so much of my adult life serving the people of West Virginia – fighting for our values and our beliefs. And I will never give up that fight.

The entire Manchin family wishes you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  May God continue His many blessings on America and on the great state of West Virginia.

Source: By Sen. Joe Manchin