"Be thankful for what you have, and you’ll end up having more. Concentrate on what you don’t have, and you will never have enough." — Oprah Winfrey
The celebration of Thanksgiving 2020 will be like no other in living memory, coming as it does in the midst of a pandemic and in an era when the nation is riven by conflicts. Tragically, the joy of sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by family, friends and neighbors will be impossible for many millions.
And yet the spirit of Thanksgiving must and will live on. The spirit of appreciating whatever good fortune one has. The spirit of sharing with those who are less fortunate. The spirit of gratitude for living in this great nation. We can and must celebrate our families and friends and communities, even if for a time we are distanced from them.
We owe thanks to:
- The nearly 2.2 million men and women who serve on active duty or in the reserves in America’s Armed Forces;
- The extraordinary police officers and firefighters who protect us at every turn;
- The legions of medical workers in our nation and around the world who have sacrificed so much during this Covid year;
- The unsung volunteers who work every day to lift up those in need—they too have gone above and beyond in 2020;
- The educators who work for modest pay to prepare our young people for the future, and who have struggled so much in a time of daunting challenges.
We owe all these people—and many more like them—so much. They are what constitute our national character — a character that has been tested in 2020, and risen to the challenge.
Some facts about Thanksgiving:
- The first Thanksgiving was actually a three-day celebration. In November 1621, the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful and Governor William Bradford invited the Plymouth colony’s Native Americans to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Members of the Wampanoag tribe came bearing food, and so it was decided to extend the affair.
- While he was President, Thomas Jefferson refused to declare Thanksgiving a holiday because he strongly believed in the separation of church and state. Since Thanksgiving involved prayer and reflection, Jefferson thought making it a national holiday would violate the First Amendment. He also thought it was better suited as a state holiday, not a federal one.
- The woman behind "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is responsible for the recognition of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Lincoln after years of persistent lobbying to declare Thanksgiving an annual national holiday.
- About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving each year. While not so popular the rest of the year, turkey is a big hit for the holiday—perhaps because it serves a crowd. For Christmas, 22 million families prepare a turkey.
Thanksgiving. Whatever our tribulations, we all have much to be thankful for.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder and chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. The former CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc., he is also author of more than a dozen books, including the best-selling “Power and Influence.”