America’s first national day of Thanksgiving occurred on September 25, 1789. It was the nation’s first official act set by Congress after that body completed the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our Founders wanted to thank God for the new nation, under freedom, they had just established. President George Washington issued the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation:
"Whereas 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… Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th of November 1789… that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”
However, Thanksgiving did not become an annual event in American until the time of President Abraham Lincoln. After persistent appeals from Sarah Josepha Hale, a popular women’s magazine editor from Boston, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863 as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our benevolent Father. Lincoln wrote:
“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. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
The day of Thanksgiving in 1863 was remarkable because it was held during a time in which the Union Army had been losing battle after battle for three extremely brutal and bloody years of the Civil War. And, it was a pivotal time in Lincoln’s personal life. Several months earlier, the Battle of Gettysburg has resulted in the loss of more than 60,000 American lives – in a single battle. President Lincoln told an Illinois clergyman that it was while walking among the thousands of graves at Gettysburg that he first committed his life to Christ:
“When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.” That dedication was visible in his public pronouncements for the remainder of his short presidency.
Thankfulness, in times of need and plenty, has for 500 years expressed the true spirit of America. It is no accident that Thanksgiving is the oldest of all American holidays. Please come celebrate a Thanksgiving feast with JH Classical Academy faculty and students on Tuesday, November 14 at 11:50 PM. Let’s share that spirit of the first thanksgiving together before we leave on break to celebrate the good things that God has given us with our families!
I am thankful for our teachers, who transmit knowledge and wisdom to the students. I’m thankful for you, as parents, for entrusting JH Classical Academy with your child’s education. In preparation for parent-teacher conferences this week, please read the written narratives that accompany the qualitative and quantitative assessments of your child’s progress. We are invested, alongside you, in your child’s success and look forward to your questions and insights in our upcoming discussions.
I’m thankful for Brent Hodges, our board chair, for orchestrating our visit yesterday to a school he once led in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Dr. Wagner and I learned much from their 5-year journey through accreditation and building a high school by adding a grade per year from K-8 to K-12. We came home equipped with details on required testing, college counseling, high school culture, preparing for accreditation, building ideas for our new campus, and much more. We also came home with deep gratitude those that have guided and mentored us at JH Classical Academy. The academic program we have -- curriculum, methodology, and faculty -- is very strong! We are building an institution of excellence.
See you on campus this week,