ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
President George W. Bush, left, is accompanied by Nathan Hill of Circle Hill Farms of Ellsworth, Iowa, who holds Pumpkin the turkey during the Pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2008. / AP File Photo by Gerald Herbert

Just as frequently as we hear "this is the most divisive time in our history" today, someone is there to remind us this country has been through schismatic and politically troublesome times before.

After all, the United States has seen wars, a Great Depression, recessions, floods, droughts, assassinations, hurricanes, riots, tornadoes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, impeachments and even a civil war that threatened to divide the country — then less than 100 years old — in two.

Somehow, we made it. We'll make it through this time, too.

Thursday, on Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for that resilience — that and so much more.

With that in mind, we offer words uttered by previous presidents in other times of strife and challenge.

* In 1863, having earlier proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving, President Abraham Lincoln suggested how American might pray in addition to giving thanks.

"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also," he wrote, "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

* In 1933, few presidents faced a more daunting task than did Franklin D. Roosevelt in assuming the nation's leadership during the Great Depression. In his proclamation, he suggested the need for individuals to help one another.

"May we be grateful for the passing of dark days," he wrote, "for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind."

* In 2009, in another economic hard time which came to be known as the Great Recession, President Barack Obama echoed a similar theme to Roosevelt's.

"As we gather once again among loved ones," he wrote, "let us also reach out to our neighbors and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand. This is a time for us to renew our bonds with one another, and we can fulfill that commitment by serving our communities and our Nation throughout the year."

* In 2001, only months after terrorist attacks hit New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush reminded citizens to thank God for what riches we still had as a country and to thank those who came alongside their fellow Americans who suffered losses.

"As we recover from the terrible tragedies of September 11," he wrote, "Americans of every belief and heritage give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy as a free, faithful, and fair-minded land. Let us particularly give thanks for the self-less sacrifices of those who responded in service to others after the terrorist attacks, setting aside their own safety as they reached out to help their neighbors. And let us give thanks for the millions of people of faith who have opened their hearts to those in need with love and prayer, bringing us a deeper unity and stronger resolve."

* In 1865, 1881, 1901 and 1964, Presidents Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, respectively, had the solemn duties to issue proclamations after the assassination deaths of elected presidents.

Andrew Johnson noted that it must have "pleased Almighty God to relieve our beloved country from the fearful scourge of civil war," and Arthur acknowledged that "our nation still lies in the shadow of a great bereavement, and the mourning which has filled our hearts and still finds its sorrowful expression toward the God before whom we but lately bowed in grief and supplication."

Roosevelt, while recognizing the one "we so loved and honored," asked that "the manner of his death should awaken in the breasts of our people a keen anxiety for the country, and at the same time a resolute purpose not to be driven by any calamity from the path of a strong, orderly, popular liberty, which, as a nation, we have thus far safely trod." Lyndon Johnson, who became president only days before Thanksgiving in 1963, did not mention his predecessor in his 1964 message but did recall the words of Lincoln in honoring all who served in resolving "that these honored dead shall not have died in vain."

Give thanks to God. Heal wounds. Help each other. Good words for then, and now.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT