The Best Thanksgiving Reflection You’ll Read This — Or Any — Year

Credit: Alyssa Rosenberg
Credit: Alyssa Rosenberg

My family reads the late Connecticut Governor Wilbur Cross’s 1936 Thanksgiving Proclamation before our dinner each year, and I’ve taken to posting the text of it. It’s a lovely statement of values, even if Cross’s invocation of the Creator and Preserver isn’t precisely to your taste and beliefs. And it’s a reminder that public language can be an opportunity for great beauty rather than for talking points, and for expressing wonder, rather than winning the morning:

Proclamation

Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year. In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November, as a day of

Public Thanksgiving

for the blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved State with the favored regions of earth — for all the creature comforts: the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives — and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken man’s faith in his manhood, that nourish and strengthen his spirit to do the great work still before him: for the brotherly word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each to his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land; — that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.

I’ve got a great deal to be thankful for this year, including the opportunities to travel almost 40,000 miles to report about television, to watch some astonishing movies, and to talk to subsistence farmers in Myanmar about Korean soap operas. It’s been a powerful reminder of how important culture is, be it high or low, and whether it’s coming in the form of a penny-ante sitcom that inspired a fierce debate about racial progress, or temples built as an expression of devotion that have survived for centuries. We tell ourselves stories and make beautiful things in order to live, and to make sense of the world we live in. I’m incredibly grateful to see so many illustrations of that, and to try to get to make sense of some of them. Thank you for being here with me in that.