Thanksgiving’s Presidential Heritage – Our History from Washington to Trump

| Community | November 27, 2019

compiled by Richard Hood

“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor … that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be . . . and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” — George Washington, 1789

“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of the morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed.”
“Of his infinite Grace, through the redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us, by his Holy Spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction.”
“The duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent Thanksgiving to the bestower of every good gift.” — John Adams, 1798

“Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise . . . the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.  Therefore Resolved . . . a day of public and solemn THANKSGIVING to Almighty God, for his mercies, and of PRAYER, for the continuance of this favor and protection to these United States . . . and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth… That he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon all our sins, and receive us into his favor; and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.”
— Thomas Jefferson,  1779

“To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are so extraordinary in nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
“To set apart . . . a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1863, 1864


“I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby recommend . . . a day of national thanksgiving to the Creator of the Universe for these great deliverances and blessings. And I do further recommend that on that occasion the whole people make confession of our national sins against His infinite goodness, and with one heart and one mind implore the divine guidance in the ways of national virtue and holiness.”
“. . . by whose everwatchful, merciful, and gracious providence alone states and nations, no less than families and individual men, do live and move and have their being.” — Andrew Johnson, 1865-1868

“It becomes a people thus favored to make acknowledgment to the Supreme Author from whom such blessings flow of their gratitude and their dependence, to render praise and thanksgiving for the same, and devoutly to implore a continuance of God’s mercies.”
“. . . public worship and to unite in the homage and praise due to the bountiful Father of All Mercies and in fervent prayer for the continuance of the manifold blessings he has vouchsafed to us as a people.” — Ulysses S. Grant, 1869

“The sentiments of sympathy and Christian charity by virtue of which we are one united people. . . . as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Him who holds the nations in the hollow of His hand. I recommend that they gather in their several places of worship and devoutly give Him thanks for the prosperity wherewith He has endowed us.” — William McKinley, 1900

“That our hearts may be roused to war steadfastly for good and against all the forces of evil, public and private. We pray for strength and light, so that in the coming years we may with cleanliness, fearlessness, and wisdom, do our allotted work on the earth in such manner as to show that we are not altogether unworthy of the blessings we have received.”
“We speak of what has been done by this nation in no spirit of boastfulness or vainglory, but with full and reverent realization that our strength is as nothing unless we are helped from above.”
“Our people should set apart a day for praise and thanksgiving to the Giver of Good, and at the same time that they express their thankfulness for the abundant mercies received should manfully acknowledge their shortcomings and pledge themselves solemnly and in good faith to strive to overcome them.”
“In material well-being we have thus abounded, we owe it to the Almighty to show equal progress in moral and spiritual things.”
“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 body and mind – character. Much has been given us from on high, and much will rightly be expected of us in return.” — Theodore Roosevelt, 1903-1908

“Our country has many causes for thanksgiving. We have been blest with distinctive evidence of divine favor.” — Herbert Hoover, 1930

“More greatly have we turned our hearts and minds to things spiritual. We can truly say, ‘What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul?’ With gratitude in our hearts for what has already been achieved, may we, with the help of God, dedicate ourselves anew to work for the betterment of mankind.”
“In our deepest natures, in our very souls, we, like all mankind since the earliest origin of mankind, turn to God in time of trouble and in time of happiness. ‘In God We Trust.’”
“In this year of liberation, which has seen so many millions freed from tyrannical rule, it is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our allies, to His children in other lands.”
“That we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934-38

“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.” — Harry S. Truman, 1950

“For the courage and vision of our forebears . . . 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.”
“May we lift up our hearts in special prayers of gratitude for the abundance of our endowments . . . and for the religious faith which has wielded such a beneficent influence upon our destiny.”
“It is also fitting at this season that we should consider God’s providence to us throughout our entire history. . . .let us pray this year not only in the spirit of thanksgiving but also as suppliants for God’s guidance, to the end that we may follow the course of righteousness and be worthy of His favor. . . . give thanks to God and prayerful contemplation to those eternal truths and universal principles of Holy Scripture which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this Nation has achieved.”
“. . . recall that our leaders throughout the succeeding generations have relied upon Almighty God for vision and strength of purpose . . . . and let us ask God’s continuing help and guidance in our conduct, both as individuals and as a Nation.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1957

“Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also extend them to the four corners of the earth.”
“Let us renew that spirit by offering our thanks for uncovenanted mercies, beyond our desert or merit, and by resolving to meet the responsibilities placed upon us.”
“Let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us.” — John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963

“From Moses at the Red Sea to Jesus preparing to feed the multitudes, the Scriptures summon us to words and deeds of gratitude, even before divine blessings are fully perceived. From Washington kneeling at Valley Forge to the prayer of an astronaut circling the moon, our own history repeats that summons and proves its practicality … ‘Take heart! Give thanks! To see clearly about us is to rejoice; and to rejoice is to worship the Father; and to worship Him is to receive more blessings still.’”
“Time has not dimmed, nor circumstance diminished the need for God’s hand in all that America may justly endeavor. In times of trial and of triumph that single truth reasserts itself, and a people who have never bowed before men go gladly to their knees in submission to divine power, and in thanks for divine sustenance.” — Richard Nixon, 1972-1973

“Thanksgiving … is a time when the differences of a diverse people are forgotten and all Americans join in giving thanks to God for the blessings we share — the blessings of freedom, opportunity and abundance that make America so unique.” — Gerald R. Ford, 1974

“A day when all Americans could join together and express their gratitude for God’s providence ‘with united hearts.’”
“I ask all Americans to give thanks on that day for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us, and seek to be good stewards of what we have received.” — Jimmy Carter, 1977-1979

“Thanksgiving … has served as a singular expression of the transcending spiritual values that played an instrumental part in the founding of our country.”
“ ‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,’ the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the ‘wondrous works’ of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers.”
“Rooted deeply in our Judeo-Christian heritage, the practice of offering thanksgiving underscores our unshakable belief in God as the foundation of our Nation and our firm reliance upon Him from Whom all blessings flow. Both as individuals and as a people, we join with the Psalmist in song and praise: ‘Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good.’”
“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.”
“Acknowledgment of dependence on God’s favor was, in fact, our fledgling Nation’s very first order of business.” — Ronald Reagan, 1981-1987

“Sharing in God’s blessings is at the heart of Thanksgiving and at the core of the American spirit.” — William J. Clinton, 2000

“Our founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing. May we always live by that same trust, and may God continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.”
“On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things and life itself, come from Almighty God.” — George W. Bush, 2003-2004

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2018, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.” — Donald Trump, 2018

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About Richard Hood

Richard Hood is a retired history teacher.

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