It strikes me that thanks are, all too often, no longer enough a part of Thanksgiving. It appalls me that many churches don’t even hold Thanksgiving services — even though the day itself is specifically intended to be a day of giving thanks to God for the blessings of the American nation.
We give thanks on this day specifically as, and because we are, Americans.
In that light, in addition to all my private thanksgivings, here are some of the things for which I will thank God tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day.
I thank God for the incredible collection of genius and foresight and learning and public-spiritedness that blessed this nation’s founding generation. Particularly, its first six presidents — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and J.Q. Adams — were men of such high character and high intellect that they would surely have stood out in any land at any time in human history. Combine them with Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, with George Mason and Roger Sherman, with James Wilson and Charles Pinckney, with Robert Livingston and Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris and John Jay and John Dickinson and William Paterson, along with Sam Adams and with tradesmen such as Paul Revere, and you have a nation not just well served but awe-inspiringly graced at its very inception. (And may we also remember the truth of what John Adams said, that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”)
I thank God for American statesmen throughout our history: statesmen (and women) and military leaders too numerous to name but who seem always to appear whenever the most perilous times call them forth. When we needed a George C. Marshall, he was here. When we needed a Jeane Kirkpatrick, here she was. When we faced economic, military, and diplomatic weakness in the late 1970s of a sort almost unimaginable just 20 years earlier…well, there was Ronald Reagan, with his optimism and his unyielding conservative principles and his political and communicative skills, and his bedrock belief in American exceptionalism.
I thank God for the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who have given their lives for their country, and the tens of millions who have risked their lives, and the thousands (John McCain, Jeremiah Denton, Sam Johnson, and Orson Swindle among them) who endured captivity and torture in service for our freedom. I thank God for those who fight for us now in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning wars and securing peace in places and times where and when some pathetic U.S. senators say victory is unattainable and peace unsecurable. And I thank the Lord that some senators, such as Henry Jackson against the Soviet Communists and Joe Lieberman against Islamic terrorists, have the courage to break with their political party in service of the national interest.
I thank the Lord for our Constitution, for our rule of law, and for allowing us the freedom in which civic virtue has a chance to flourish.
Thank the Lord for our prosperity. Thank Him for our generosity as a people. Thank him for our sense of questing, our love of discovery, our commitments to free minds and free markets that allow excellence to flourish, science and medicine to advance, and art of all sorts to thrive.
Thank the Lord for our sense of play. Thank Him for our games and our sports. Thank Him for the music that grew from our culture, for jazz and its offspring, and R&B and its offspring, for zydeco and Cajun and folk and country. Many nations have great musical traditions, but none have ones so varied and rich.
Thank the Lord for our fertile soil, for the breathtaking beauty of our coasts and mountains, for our teeming forests and our life-filled oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. Thank Him for the provision of sustenance from that soil and those forests and waters; and for the ability to labor to secure such sustenance for ourselves and our families, whom we hold dear.
Thank the Lord for the colors of autumn. I drive down a Washington, D.C. street or a Virginia highway and find myself overwhelmed, almost overcome, by the phantasmagoric displays of yellow and oranges, reds and greens, coppers and bronzes, and of multitudinous shadings thereof. They are a balm for the spirit, and a visual feast.
This entire land, indeed, is a Horn of Plenty, and we are the people blessed to share its fruit. As we do, may we be ever grateful to the Author of our blessings, and ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen. Amen. A Great Amen.
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