As Thanksgiving 2019 becomes a pleasant memory, it is a good time to reflect upon the significance of this important holiday. Families and friends gather to break bread, eat turkey and give thanks for the blessings bestowed on us by our remarkable form of government.
We have been repulsed by the ugly political comments that some of those sitting around the table have posted on social media. Yet, we know them to be good-hearted, generous folk. They contribute to charities, engage in community activities and are there to help when accidents happen or weather disaster strikes. It is hard to reconcile the political commentary with the civic-minded actions.
Thanksgiving Day was conceived in conflict and designed to bring people together. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday on October 3, 1863, during the Civil War. He did it at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. The occasion had been celebrated since the time of the Pilgrims but each locality had its own day of observance. The national observance was for the sake of unity.
In his proclamation, Lincoln expressed thanks that the country was holding together and that “harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict.” He expressed thanks to the “Most High God” for the blessings bestowed on the people and urged Americans to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
If the nation could eventually come together to heal the wounds of war, we can certainly overcome our political quarrels of today and work together as a nation. If we just open our eyes, we can see goodness in every corner of this great country.
Last February, I had the privilege of judging the American Legion Oratorical Contest. The state winner was Alayna Lopez of Pocatello, who made a remarkable speech, titled “The Quilt of Our Nation.” She spoke of a conversation with her grandfather, who described how our country was a patchwork of people of all faiths, origins, and beliefs, all stitched together in a remarkable quilt. It was a thoughtful and moving presentation.
I was also deeply touched by an article that appeared in the Washington Post on October 11 under the byline of Petula Dvorak. A renowned scientist searched for his mystery angel for 30 years tells of a quest made by a Kuwaiti refugee to find a travel agent who made it possible to settle his family in the United States.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, a young Muslim man, Mahmoud Ghannoum, was stranded in Washington, DC, without money and needing to change his plane ticket to get to a job interview. He spoke with an African-American man in a travel agency, who heard him out and sympathized. The agent issued a new ticket and gave him $80 as “spending money.”
Ghannoum got the job, moved his family to America, became a citizen and is now “the world’s leading microbiome researcher,” according to the article. Google his name and be impressed. Last year, Ghannoum intensified his search for his benefactor, who turned out to be James Dorsey, a Vietnam Veteran and volunteer firefighter. Unfortunately, Dorsey had passed away this past February. I was so moved by the story because it brought together a generous man who had served his country in Vietnam and a refugee who has contributed greatly to his country, this country.
Both Dorsey and Ghannoum are great additions to the beautiful American quilt, as is Alayna Lopez. We should all try to see the good in one another and strive to add ourselves to that wonderful quilt.