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On October 3, 1789, President Washington gave the nation’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, he both specified the exact day the nation should come together in gratitude and suggested some of the things Americans had to be grateful for.
Washington released a second Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1795. After this, only one president – James Madison in 1815 – would proclaim an official day of thanksgiving for the next 67 years.
It was Abraham Lincoln who established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. His Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, not only kickstarted the holiday, but established a tradition observed by every single president since.
Over time, the annual presidential proclamation has come to be much more than an official announcement of the date of Thanksgiving. It has become an ode to “liberty, freedom, human dignity, community and democracy.”1 It has become a reminder of how these values are the pillars on which our country stands. It has become a celebration of America itself.
And it is a wonderful way to remember why we celebrate the way we do.
In honor of this Thanksgiving, we invite you to read one such presidential proclamation given by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907.2 While much has changed in our nation since then, one thing has not: The importance of giving thanks for what we have by helping those who have less.
We’ve attached a copy of Roosevelt’s proclamation. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did – and we hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!
Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
1 “Evolution of the Thanksgiving Proclamation,” University of California Santa Barbara, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/analyses/evolution-the-thanksgiving-proclamation
2 “Proclamation 776 – Thanksgiving Day, 1907,” Theodore Roosevelt, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-776-thanksgiving-day-1907
Thanksgiving Day, 1907
By the President of the United States of America
Once again, the season of the year has come when, in accordance with the custom of our forefathers for generations past, the president appoints a day as the special occasion for all our people to give praise and thanksgiving to God.
During the past year we have been free from famine, from pestilence, from war. We are at peace with all the rest of mankind. Our natural resources are at least as great as those of any other nation. We believe that in ability to develop and take advantage of these resources the average man of this nation stands at least as high as the average man of any other. Nowhere else in the world is there such an opportunity for a free people to develop to the fullest extent all its powers of body, of mind, and of that which stands above both body and mind – character.
A great democracy like ours, a democracy based upon the principles of orderly liberty, can be perpetuated only if in the heart of ordinary citizens there dwells a keen sense of righteousness, and justice. We should earnestly pray that this spirit of righteousness and justice may grow in the hearts of all of us, and that our souls may be inclined ever more both toward the virtues that tell for gentleness and tenderness, for loving kindness and forbearance, one toward another, and toward those no less necessary virtues that make for manliness and rugged hardihood; for without these qualities neither nation nor individual can rise to the level of greatness.
Now, Therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, do set apart Thursday, the 28th day of November, as a day for general Thanksgiving and Prayer, and on that day I recommend that the people shall cease from their daily work, and in their homes or in their churches, meet devoutly to thank the Almighty for the many and great blessings they have received in the past, and to pray that they may be given the strength so to order their lives as to deserve a continuation of these blessings in the future.