President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a public holiday in 1863 to thank God for our abundant blessings even during fervent strife including amongst families. Lincoln's humble and courageous proclamation invokes gratitude and sacrifice for God's grace and its inspiring message is relevant today. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving let us pause and remember November 22nd marks the anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, fifty years ago in Dallas and one hundred years after Lincoln's little known "Thanksgiving Proclamation." These charismatic commander and chiefs share a common destiny. Both were faced with a nation and world divided. Both played a pivotal role in confronting and healing our nation's divide on race and freedom. Both sacrificed their lives serving their country.
Today our commander and chief, President Barack Hussein Obama, is representative of the extraordinary diversity of America and he leads a nation again in turmoil. He has the unique opportunity to help keep America "one nation under God, indivisible with life, liberty and justice for all." His Hawaii roots promote the "aloha spirit" which means fostering harmony and virtues. If he chooses to embrace this concept for unity, there is hope for restoring a United States of America. Twenty states have petitioned the White House to secede from the union and the governor of Texas has even endorsed the spirit of discord movement. President Obama can unite Americans if he desires by following the examples of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy as faith based leaders. After all, peace in a nation is good for commerce which is good for creating jobs and a healthier environment.
Leading Americans in humble prayers of thanksgiving and taking courageous action to protect the rights of all Americans from the womb to the tomb was part of the legacy of Lincoln and Kennedy. Lead America on the righteous path and the load will be lighter. The help of a power much greater than all the men and women in DC in all branches of government combined is what America depends upon historically. The reliable roadmaps held by Lincoln and Kennedy for "a more perfect union" were the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bible. President Obama if he desires could help fulfill the vision set forth by these two great American leaders who helped open the path for his time to lead America.
Families across our nation, east, west, and north, south, red or blue will gather or disperse this Thanksgiving in heightened contemplative mode. Can they converse civilly and charitably with their sister, brother, son or daughter, parent or grandparent about the direction of America? America is divided by principled mentalities, not unlike the America of 150 years ago. I submit the division is not about class, race or gender. It is about America's moral compass and values. Why are Americans who practice religion denigrated or made fun of? Bullying is wrong when it is directed toward anyone whether liberal, conservative or any other label. Practicing virtues like faith, hope, love, charity, humility is a good thing. Good for our nation and good for our soul. When we reflect on the changes taking place in this great nation, we may wish to read two relevant Lincoln, Kennedy documents. Here are a few excerpts:
"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, 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 purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union. Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863."
Lincoln and Kennedy may have been sinners as we all are, but they were fundamentally men of faith and they shared the toughest virtue to acquire, humility. Both called upon a power far greater than their own position as president of the United States to surrender confidence and trust to while leading our country. Historic accounts of their speeches attest to this as solemn prayer was thoughtfully incorporated. One such presidential speech is amongst the last written by President Kennedy for his heartrending trip to Dallas:
"We in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain"... Trade Mart Speech by JFK November 22, 1963.
His written words were not delivered on that tragic day in American history but they live on for all time. Especially thought provoking is JFK's concluding sacred scripture reading, 'except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain', from "Psalm 127, A Song of Ascents of Solomon." These were literally his last words to us and future generations. The prophetic biblical meaning was embraced by President Kennedy as a strong message to America and to our country's leadership, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain (NIV, 1984)."
Fellow Americans, let us not labor in vain, let us not stand guard in vain. In God we must trust.
And together offer our Hawaiian Thanksgiving,"Mahalo E Ke Akua No Keia La" -- Thanks be to God for this day!