Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Giving thanks in trying times

This year’s Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving makes no mention of our current economic circumstances, which distinguishes it from its Depression-era counterparts. Consider this from Herbert Hoover in 1930:

Now, therefore, I, Herbert Hoover, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, November 27, 1930, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and do enjoin the people of the United States so to observe it, calling upon them to remember that many of our people are in need and suffering from causes beyond their control, and suggesting that a proper celebration of the day should include that we make sure that every person in the community, young and old, shall have cause to give thanks for our institutions and for the neighborly sentiment of our people.

Or this, a year later:

The measure of passing adversity which has come upon us should deepen the spiritual life of the people, quicken their sympathies and spirit of sacrifice for others, and strengthen their courage. Many of our neighbors are in need from causes beyond their control and the compassion over this winter that they too may have full cause to participate in this day of gratitude to the Almighty.

"Got hope?" was already a theme in FDR’s proclamations, as in this from 1933:

May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind.

Or this, from 1934:

During the past year we have been given courage and fortitude to meet the problems which have confronted us in our national life. Our sense of social justice has deepened. We have been given vision to make new provisions for human welfare and happiness, and in a spirit of mutual helpfulness we have cooperated to translate vision into reality.
More greatly have we turned our hearts and minds to things spiritual. We can truly say, "What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul."
With gratitude in our hearts for what has already been achieved, may we, with the help of God, dedicate ourselves anew to work for the betterment of mankind.

I doubt that President Obama’s proclamations will share the robust sense of American exceptionalism evident in those of his predecessor, but I have no doubt that they will offer something of his "Social Gospel."

I have to confess to not having been overly impressed by the GWB proclamations, this one included. In past years, I’ve written on this subject here, here, and here.

Discussions - 2 Comments

An Obama Thanksgiving Day notice would surely refer to Lincoln's proclamation of it as a holiday.

Sad day when evangelicals look for crumbs of faith-based talk in presidential holiday proclamations. Wait a minute! That is a good day. Really, what sort of person even pays any attention to what Bush says in his presidential proclamations? It is the equivalent of an info-mercial for self-massaging back unguent.

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