Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Give Thanks

As Thanksgiving approaches, the American annual tradition of reflection continues. This is both a personal act and a national act.   The history of this tradition has its roots in New England. Pilgrim Hall Museum, America’s Museum of Pilgrim Possessions, organizes a collection that tells the story of origin and history of Thanksgiving. The collection of presidential proclamations online is a unique glimpse into the past.
The tradition of issuing a proclamation for Thanksgiving dates back to the Continental Congress. The modern tradition of Thanksgiving Proclamations dates to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Since Lincoln, a presidential proclamation has announced the modern holiday. No matter the challenge Presidents have taken a moment to express gratitude for the blessings enjoyed.  This holiday take heart from the words of Presidents, past and current, and have a happy peaceful holiday.

 “We have not lost our faith in the spiritual dignity of man, our proud belief in the right of all people to live out their lives in freedom and with equal treatment. The love of democracy still burns brightly in our hearts.”
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941

“We give thanks with the humility of free men, each knowing it was the might of no one arm but of all together by which we were saved. Liberty knows no race, creed, or class in our country or in the world. In unity we found our first weapon, for without it, both here and abroad, we were doomed. “
-Harry Truman, 1945

“All about us, doubts and fears threaten our faith in the principles which are the fiber of our society; we are called upon to prove  their truth once again. Such challenges must be seen as opportunities for proof of these verities; such proof can only strengthen our Nation.”
-Richard Nixon, 1970

“I encourage the people of the United States to join together — whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors — and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.”
-Barack Obama, 2015


Obama, Barack. "Presidential Proclamation -- Thanksgiving Day, 2015." The White House. The White House, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Thanksgiving Proclamations. Pilgrim Hall Museum. Pilgrim Hall Museum, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

By Jeff Burns

I have large southern families on both sides.  My father is one of 10 siblings, and while my mother only had one brother, her mother was the oldest of eleven, and their ages were such that she basically grew up as a sibling, not a niece.  Both of my parents are now deceased. Just recently, I served as a pallbearer for my 95 year old uncle, the last of my father’s generation.  My mother’s younger brother died this summer, and of the eleven in my grandmother’s generation, three survive.

 The Burns siblings (9 of them anyway), with my father on the far right. 
It is the only photo of all or almost all that I have. Taken 1984

My mother’s grandparents and their 11 children. 
My grandmother is on the far right.
Only known picture of them all together.Taken 1946.

Although we often had family reunions and were closer than many families, I don’t have much from my grandparents and beyond. They were generally poor working people just getting by, farmers and sharecroppers.  They didn’t have much in the way of belongings to pass down, and they weren’t great picture-takers or letter-writers or diarists. As an adult and especially as a history teacher, I regret that I didn’t engage them more about their lives and memories, and I bet most readers of this blog have similar feelings.

We recently shared a post on Facebook about a new initiative launched by StoryCorps called The Great Thanksgiving Listen, encouraging people to engage and interview their elders during the holiday season this year.  This is a great idea.  Give it a try.  Whether you submit the results to StoryCorps or not, you will learn something.  And don’t think it’s just for Thanksgiving.  You can do it anytime, with relatives, neighbors, or anyone else.  So, get out and DO history!