Editorial: Thanksgiving great for giving thanks but also for coming together

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

If strained for conversation topics this Thanksgiving, maybe you should start with discussing the time the vice president shot the former secretary of the treasury.

You know, when Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed founding father and former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel in 1804. What were you thinking of?

That duel, which came just four years after the 1800 presidential election was so close that the Electoral College ended in a tie, is a good reminder that America has had crazy political times since its beginning. If you are intent on discussing them this Thanksgiving, perhaps go in chronological order and you may thankfully run out of time before you get to today’s affairs.

Actually, it’s your family and friends. If you want to talk about today’s politics, go ahead. The times are serious. The country is too divided, too reckless and too exposed to foreign threats. A course correction is in order. However, hopefully you can figure out a way to discuss it without the mashed potatoes and gravy becoming cold. Or thrown.

Surely, though, you will find time to give thanks for the friends, family and other blessings in your life. It is important to do this, and most people remember to do so. After all, it is right there in the name of the holiday.

What is more often forgotten is the other meaning behind the Thanksgiving holiday. To find it, look to its origins as a national holiday. While the pilgrim and Indian story gathers most of the attention when the history of Thanksgiving is written, it was Abraham Lincoln who actually declared the day a national holiday in 1863. That was during some of the darkest days in American history.

The country was in the middle of the Civil War. While tragedy continued to occur on a daily basis, Lincoln thought it was appropriate that the country remember some of the blessings it continued to have. Such is the case today. America has much to be grateful for.

But ever looking forward, Lincoln also wanted to use the holiday as an opportunity to bring people together. In 1863 there were families who literally were on opposite sides of a battle line. It is hard to know whether a Thanksgiving celebration brought those enemies to the same family table in 1863, but it is nice to believe that it did.

In his proclamation declaring the holiday, Lincoln asked for the “interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

The situation isn’t as dire today and surely we would say it differently, but it is still a relevant wish for this Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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