THANKSGIVING SERVICE, St. PAUL’S
November 24, 2011
Almost four centuries ago, a hardy band of Pilgrims – many of whom had set forth from this island – assembled to give thanks for the bounty of their New World.
More than 150 years later, George Washington issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving proclamation by way of gratitude for our new, independent nation.
And in 1863 – with our Union fractured – President Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday of Thanksgiving.
In so doing, he implored God to “heal the wounds of the nation” and shape a new Republic.
Although separated by the centuries, in each case, our forefathers were encouraged to give thanks for the vision of a new dawn.
They each did so at times of great peril, great struggle, and great sacrifice.
Now, as at those moments in our history, grave challenges face us once again.
Economic recovery remains fragile. And many people, from all walks of life, are frustrated and angered by a sense that the scales of fairness have tipped out of balance.
Understandably, some feel their jobs, homes, and livelihoods are threatened by a crisis that has nothing to do with them.
Few believe anyone is listening to their concerns. They’re asking for their voices to be heard, for fair and responsible societies.
The Arab Awakening, meanwhile, is as unsettling as it is inspiring – as evidenced by what is presently happening in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
In spite of these problems, however, we are grateful that today, more and more citizens in the family of nations are tasting the fruits long enjoyed by Americans: liberty, dignity, equality and universal rights.
Americans will support their fledgling governments as they begin to forge new, democratic nations.
At the same time, we must continue to stand up for – and to stand alongside – those still bravely demanding freedom in the face of government repression.
Another challenge we must confront is international terrorism, which threatens us wherever we live – and the poisonous, extremist ideology that feeds it.
And today of all days – as we sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners – we should not forget those throughout the world enslaved by hunger, poverty, and disease.
So there are dangers and challenges ahead.
But in this time of uncertainty and anxiety, let us draw inspiration from the example of our ancestors: and again put our trust in our nation, and ourselves – and in another new dawn.
Americans have every reason to be optimistic.
We have faced many tests and trials throughout our glorious history – and each one we have met and we have overcome.
America is a strong, resilient nation, with manifold blessings for which to be thankful.
Family, faith, health, love and hope continue to enrich our daily lives.
Our harvests are abundant; our workers still the most productive.
Our universities set the gold standard in education; our inventors and researchers are ingenious and original.
Our charities and philanthropic zeal bring hope to millions around the world; and our military and their families make sacrifices for our security.
Indeed, we hold a special place in our hearts, in particular, for those men and women of our armed forces away from their loved ones today.
And to all of them, we say, please come home safely to next year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Let us offer thanks from every grateful heart not only for America’s plentiful gifts; but also for the way our core values continue to shine as a beacon to others.
And let us pray that the coming year brings a new era of peace and prosperity.
In the words of President Truman’s 1946 Thanksgiving proclamation: “May we have the vision and courage to accept and discharge honorably the responsibilities inherent in our strength by consecrating ourselves to the attainment of a better world.”
All Americans here in London appreciate the opportunity to mark Thanksgiving amid the splendor of this magnificent cathedral.
There are few feelings to match the immense pride that comes from the sound of 2,000 of our fellow citizens singing ‘God Bless America’.
Now, since the time of Abraham Lincoln, it has been tradition for the President to share his thoughts with the American people on Thanksgiving Day.
It is my pleasure to read from this year’s proclamation from the President of the United States, Barack Obama.