In 1789, our Founding Fathers believed the nation should have a day to commemorate and celebrate a holiday to give thanks for all the blessings shared in this newly formed democracy. President George Washington decreed the last Thursday of that November to be that day.
The Founding Fathers felt the opportunities handed to them by fate, hard work, and the sacrifices of their fallen brothers to establish a democracy, a country free from tyranny, were enough to warrant such a display of gratitude.
This national day of thanksgiving would be celebrated intermittently until 1863, the year the Gettysburg Address was given, 75 years after that first proclamation, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November be set aside from normal daily activity by all Americans, here and abroad, to give thanks for blessings such as bountiful harvests, the upholding of common laws and peace outside the field of military conflict. President Lincoln called upon all Americans to set aside this time for thoughtful reflection and to be thankful for all they have been given. Even during the Civil War, Lincoln and Congress believed it was important to make time to celebrate our nation’s blessings.
When the proclamation was issued, there was a return to yearly observations of a day of thanks on the last Thursday of November. However, in 1939, the last Thursday fell on Nov. 30. This was an important fact, as the United States struggled its way out from under the weight of the Great Depression. As a boost to the economic struggle faced by so many at the time, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the yearly proclamation calling for the celebration of Thanksgiving, and asked for it to be held on the fourth Thursday, in order to provide an extra week of holiday preparation and stretch the financial potential for retailers and families alike.
With that proclamation, Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 officially naming the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving and calling for patriotic Americans to observe the day in commemoration of all the blessings we have received and for which we should be grateful. Thanksgiving is truly a day for reflection, a day we are reminded of what is important to us as people and as Missourians. We enjoy many freedoms as a result of the founding of this great land and the many who fought and died for those same freedoms.
I hope you have the opportunity to celebrate this holiday with your family and friends.
As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.