While earlier American presidents issued proclamations on occasion for days of prayer, fasting and thanksgiving, it has been an annual tradition in our country for our President to do so since Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863.
I found it enlightening to read the words of these men of our past – especially in how they gave encouragement to our citizenry to worship, pray and give thanks to God. It is a great tradition that I hope will live on.
Here is a random sampling from those proclamations. I hope their words inspire you this Thanksgiving as they have me.
I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. – A. Lincoln, 1863
I recommend that they gather in their several places of worship and devoutly give Him thanks for the prosperity wherewith He has endowed us, for seedtime and harvest, for the valor, devotion, and humanity of our armies and navies, and for all His benefits to us as individuals and as a nation; and that they humbly pray for the continuance of His divine favor, for concord and amity with other nations, and for righteousness and peace in all our ways. – W. McKinley, 1900
Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the way in which on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow-men. – T. Roosevelt, 1901
May we on that day in our churches and in our homes give humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us during the year past by Almighty God. - F. Roosevelt, 1932
I…do hereby proclaim …a day of national thanksgiving, and I call upon every citizen to offer thanks to God for His gracious guidance and help. Again I ask all my countrymen to appeal to the Most High, that the God of our Fathers who has blessed this land beyond all others will in His infinite mercy grant to all nations that peace which the world cannot give. I entreat them, in church, chapel and synagogue, in their homes and in the busy walks of life, every day and everywhere, to pray for peace. – H. Truman, 1950
…for the unity of spirit which has made our country strong; and for the continuing faith under His guidance that has kept us a religious people with freedom of worship for all, we should kneel in humble thanksgiving. – Pres. Eisenhower, 1953
I urge that all observe this day with reverence and with humility. Let us renew the spirit of the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, lonely in an inscrutable wilderness, facing the dark unknown with a faith borne of their dedication to God… - Pres. Kennedy, 1962
…it is our desire to observe, in the custom and tradition of our forebears, a special day dedicated to giving thanks to God - a day on which to lay aside our daily tasks and cares and pay joyous homage to Him. We are impelled to raise our voices in His praise and to proclaim our heartfelt gratitude for another year… - L. Johnson, 1964
I ask all Americans to gather on that day with their families and neighbors in their homes and in their houses of worship to give thanks for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us. – J. Carter, 1977
Let us pause from our many activities to give thanks to almighty God for our bountiful harvests and abundant freedoms. Let us call upon Him for continued guidance and assistance in all our endeavors. And let us ever be mindful of the faith and spiritual values that have made our Nation great and that alone can keep us great. – R. Reagan, 1986