Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks for the Common Good - November 24, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

Facing a polarized nation, what should a President do? Clearly, the issue had split the electorate pretty evenly down the middle.  A Gallup poll showed that 59% of Americans disapproved of the President’s proposal.  Twenty-two states had signed on to follow the President’s lead and Twenty-three had refused.  The others, including Colorado and Texas adopted a hybrid model.

The President’s proposal had come at the request of a large group of constituents.  They reasoned that the change would be good for the country and the economy.  Once implemented, frantic attempts to challenge and undermine it were instituted. Attempts to sway popular opinion resulted in confusion and further polarization.  Misinformation was rampant. Governors of those states that followed the President’s lead felt secure in their decision.  Those who declined on behalf of their states appeared just as confident.

Charles Arnold of Brooklyn, New York complained that the President’s plan would give an advantage to large businesses over small businesses.  Robert Benson and Clarabelle Voight, insurance agents from Groton, South Dakota, claiming to speak on behalf of all Midwesterners argued that the idea undermined morale and that by pursuing this idea, the President had practically lost his popularity and the goodwill of the people.  John Taylor, a printer from Salem, Ohio, did not care whether the plan was implemented or not but asked that any decision made would not be implemented for a year.

In the end, just when it appeared that the social fabric of America was going to be torn asunder, U.S. Senators and Representatives came together in a bipartisan manner, approved the others amendments and allowed December 26, 1941, to be the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

The issue of permanently establishing Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November instead of the last Thursday of November had elicited a vitriolic partisanship that had not been seen since one party or the other had taken advantage of a relatively benign, but high profile issue to denigrate the other party.  At the core of this hugely partisan issue was whether to grant the request of large retailers to increase the number of shopping days between “Turkey Day” and Christmas in those years where the November calendar had five Thursdays instead of four.  In 1939 the press touted November 30 as the “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23 as the “Democratic Thanksgiving.”     

Unfortunately, it took a while for the politicians to achieve the spirit of Thanksgiving penned by Floridian, F. P. Archer, Sr., when he wrote, “Mr. President: Please inform those who disagree with your advance Thanksgiving date that every day is Thanksgiving in Florida.  We who love healthful sunshine, bounteous harvests of fruits and vegetables and the clean cool breezes from the Gulf Stream never cease thanking Almighty God for these daily blessings.”

For you see, in the fall of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited approximately 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe, including Chief Massasoit, to a three day celebration of thanksgiving feast around a midweek church meeting, the last thing on his mind was when the Christmas shopping season would begin.

 In 1777, following the Patriot victory at Saratoga, the Continental Congress was not contemplating newspaper sales circulars when they declared an American Thanksgiving.

In 1789 when George Washington declared a Tuesday in November as a day of Thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution, he did not comprehend a Black Friday or a Black Wednesday for that matter.

In 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln began a tradition of declaring the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving, he did not pause to calculate how many shopping days would fall between the day of thanks and Christmas.

These leaders each encouraged participants to pause, mediate, and give thanks for the many blessings and the many freedoms that we enjoy as a people.  As a people and as a nation we give thanks for a social and political system capable of receiving and improving the lot of immigrants who have actually or figuratively passed Liberty Island and heard the words of New Colossus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We give thanks because we have faith that our nation will be a light for them as it was a light our parents and grandparents.  We have faith that the only thing we and our children have to “fear is fear itself.”  We give thanks because of the realization that we are but stewards for all mankind of the God-given abundance that is entrusted to us.  Our thanks is grounded in the knowledge that our blessings will surely cease when we depart from faithful stewardship.  It is my prayer and also that of my family that you and your loved ones will be blessed with peace, safety and abundance this week, this month and forever more.               

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or eMail me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

I look forward to hearing from you soon.