In the coming days many of us will travel tens, hundreds, or in some cases thousands of miles to join family and friends in celebrating another Thanksgiving. But amid the turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and football it’s important to remember the times of greatest thanks for our country, those times when we as a nation and people faced great adversity.
When the first settlers arrived in New England in the early 1600’s, they left in part because they were seeking a new life. But those early years they faced great adversity, from starvation to disease. Even though our ancestors faced tremendous challenges, they never stopped being thankful for what they had, and the opportunity to govern themselves in the way they saw fit.
It was in 1621 pilgrims and Native Americans gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts to give thanks for what little they had that day, and also to be thankful for what they would be given great and small in the future. That spirit of being thankful for what we would be given took on greater meaning more than 200 years later.
In the midst of a brutal and bloody civil war which threatened to rip the fabric of our nation apart, President Abraham Lincoln set into law a day of Thanksgiving to be marked each year. He did so as the armies of the North and South were engaged in battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that played an important role in determining the future of the United States. In the face of war that pitted brother against brother, President Lincoln was willing to give thanks both for the good and the bad our young nation was experiencing.
Whatever we have faced in this country, from Pearl Harbor to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington 13 years ago, we have given thanks for what we have and been thankful for what is to come. Most recently our nation and our commonwealth went to the polls and cast their vote in many elections. While some feelings over the outcome may still be raw, it is my hope this Thanksgiving we will all gather around the table, put those emotions aside, and give thanks from where the United States and Kentucky have come. And in that same breath I hope we give thanks for what we must do together to make sure our country and our state remain strong, now and in the future. That is something worth for being thankful.