“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
Today is a day of thanksgiving, and a day of reflection.
There are two particularly quintessentially American holidays: Independence Day, when we celebrate our declaration of independence from the British, which began the most successful experiment in human liberty ever conducted. And Thanksgiving Day, when we offer appreciation for the wondrous blessings in our individual lives and in the life of the nation. Thanksgiving and Independence Day, as distinct as they are, have always been sort of inseparable.
Thanksgiving carries with it a special communal joy that is rooted in that most simple but powerful human sentiment: Gratitude.
On this one particular day, millions of people are doing the exact same thing at roughly the same time: Cooking, preparing, sitting down at a shared table, praying together, eating together, watching football or movies together. Not everyone is lucky enough to have these blessings, of course. There is a lot of loneliness, despair, pain, division and violence in the country and the world, so it’s vital to keep those suffering in your prayers today.
Thanksgiving is part of a long weekend for most folks, jammed with leftovers, family, friends, parades, long walks in brisk air, even longer naps under cozy blankets, and the start of the manic holiday season.
Given the exceptional origin of this exceptional nation, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that binds us all together as Americans. It reflects our birthright, our legacy, our home. Thanksgiving is us. And only us.
The fact that it’s rooted in appreciation makes it even more important in an era of self-indulgence and incivility. As Americans, today we stop to give thanks for our families and friends, our faith, our Constitution and the many freedoms it guarantees, our great and good country, and the extraordinary United States military, our bulwark against tyranny, oppression and terror.
We are going through tumultuous times, but we are truly blessed. There is still no other nation like America. Never has been, never will be. God blessed this country from the beginning. And He blesses it still.
Among our many blessings this year: A robust economy, tax cuts, deregulation, a strong president who puts America and our interests first, stands up to our adversaries and our friends when necessary, supports our military and law enforcement and says what he means and means what he says. Not everyone appreciates President Trump’s policies or style, but the country is much better off with him at the helm than we ever were with his predecessor in the White House.
Perhaps his greatest contribution is the sense of optimism he has delivered. Even with the day-to-day assault inflicted on him, his policies, his team and our most basic freedoms, he has ushered in a time of positivity and energy that simply did not exist for about a decade prior. Optimism is another quintessentially American quality. When it’s absent, the country largely flounders. But when it exists, it opens up America like a blooming flower, full of opportunity and growth.
In the spirit of the holiday, let’s consider some particularly apt words about gratitude from some of our most dynamic presidents:
Abraham Lincoln: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.”
John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Ronald Reagan: “Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.”
And then there’s this famous quote from H.U. Westermayer: “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
Indeed they did. We do the same thing today, albeit with far greater material comforts than our forebears. Despite our fissures and the constant, churning national drama, we have much for which to be grateful today.
Eat, drink, be merry, and overflow with thanks for all that we have and all that we are — and all that is yet to be. The future is bright.
• Monica Crowley is a columnist for The Washington Times.