Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Thanksgiving as a public holiday

Here’s President Bush’s 2006 Thanksgiving Proclamation, which contains two explicit references to God and one mention of "our Lord." There are four variations on the words blessed and blessing and two references to prayer.

If you don’t feel like calling the ACLU, you might read these two essays, which I wrote last year, having read all the Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations I could find.

GWB’s, by the way, are far from the most explicitly religious--that honor might actually go to FDR’s, though they’d have a few competitors. On the other hand, nothing surpasses the sheer banality of Richard Nixon’s 1971 proclamation:

One of the splendid events which shape man’s destiny occurred when a small band of people, believing in the essential sanctity of their own being, went in search of a land in which their individuality might be the highest national value, before any arbitrary limitation or duty placed upon some men by the whim or design of others.


They went in search of a land where they might live out their own commitment to their own ideal of human freedom. In the purpose of their search, the human spirit found its ultimate definition, and in the product of their search, its ultimate expression. They found the land they sought, and it was a difficult land, but it was rich. With their sacrifices they brought forth its riches, and laid the foundation for a new nation.

We now know the inspiration for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruminations on the mystery of human life.

Update: The new and improved version of my meditation on the significance of giving thanks can be found here.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Nixon’s speech was perhaps more secular than most...but you could have chosen aspects of it to reveal the opposite.

"In their first years on the hard cold edge of man’s bright golden-dream, they were tried and their faith was tested. But when their bodies failed, their faith did not."

"I call upon all Americans to share this day, to give thanks in homes and in places of worship for the many blessings our people enjoy, to welcome the elderly and less fortunate as special participants in this day’s festivities and observances, thereby truly showing our gratitude to God by expressing and reflecting His love."

As the concluding paragraph shows Nixon still bows to the biblical view that what seperates the sheep from the goats is what they have done for the least of these. So it is really still about generousity, gratitude, and altruism as manifestations of Agape.

The dominant Ontological structure is still dominant, even if within the speech aspects which you criticize as banal point to more Machiavellian Lockean views on the relationship between fortune and virtu.

FDR knew his Book of Common Prayer. Somewhere there is a film clip of the first meeting with Churchill in the North Atlantic. On board ship they had a Sunday service. I believe they sang "Onward Christian Soldiers."

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