Thanksgiving Day is one of our most beloved holidays, an occasion set aside by Americans from earliest times to thank our Maker prayerfully and humbly for the blessings and the care He bestows on us and on our beautiful, bountiful land. Through the decades, through the centuries, in log cabins, country churches, cathedrals, homes, and halls, the American people have paused to give thanks to God, in times of peace and plenty or of danger and distress.
Acknowledgement of dependence on God’s favor was, in fact, our fledgling nation’s very first order of business. When the delegates to the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774, they overcame discord by uniting in prayer for our country. Despite the differences among them as they began their work, they found common votes in the 35th Psalm, which concludes with a verse of joyous gratitude, “And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.”
This year, of course, our Thanksgiving Day celebration coincides with the bicentennial of the Constitution. In 1789 the government established by that great charter of freedom, and “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed,” were cited by George Washington in the first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation as among “the great and various favors” conferred upon by the Lord and Ruler of Nations. As we thank the God our first president called “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,” we have even greater cause for gratitude than the fresh triumphs that inspired Washington’s prose. We have seen the splendor of our natural resources spread across the tables of the world, and we have seen the splendor of freedom coursing with new vigor through the channels of history.
The cause for which we give thanks, for which so many of our citizens through the years have given their lives, has endured 200 years — a blessing to us and a light to all mankind.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1987, let us, in this unbroken chain of observance, dedicate ourselves to honor anew the Author of Liberty and to publicly acknowledge our debt to all those who have sacrificed so much in our behalf. May our gratitude always be coupled with petitions for divine guidance and protection for our nation and with ready help for our neighbors in time of need.
Now, therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 26, 1987, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the citizens of this great nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of July, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.