American presidents have a history of making Thanksgiving proclamations and addressing the American people on Thanksgiving Day. Below are snippets from several different presidential proclamations.
George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789:
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war.
Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation for Thanksgiving 1863:
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 reverently, solemnly, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and voice, by the whole American people. 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 prayer 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 divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
Ronald Reagan Thanksgiving Proclamation 1985:
Although the time and date of the first American thanksgiving observance may be uncertain, there is no question but that this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. ‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,’ the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the ‘wondrous works’ of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers…Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name. Let every house of worship in the land and every home and every heart be filled with the spirit of gratitude and praise and love on this Thanksgiving Day.
George H.W. Bush, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1991:
From the moment it was ‘conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,’ our Nation has enjoyed the mercy and protection of Almighty God. Thus, when we join with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we celebrate not only the many blessings that we have received as individuals—including the gift of life itself—but also our great fortune as one Nation under God. On this occasion, Americans of every race, creed, and walk of life are united by a profound sense of gratitude and duty…Finally, as we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we know that our greatest blessings are not necessarily material ones. Indeed, perhaps the best thing about this occasion is that it reminds us that God loves each and every one of us. Like a faithful and loving parent, He always stands ready to comfort, guide, and forgive. That is our real cause for Thanksgiving, today and every day of our lives.
Bill Clinton, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1996:
America’s oldest tradition, Thanksgiving is also a reaffirmation of our most deeply held values; a public recognition that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty.’ In gratitude for God’s gift of freedom and ‘for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us,’ George Washington made Thanksgiving his first proclamation for the new Nation, and it is one we are privileged to renew each year…Americans today still cherish the fresh air of freedom, in which we can raise our families and worship God as we choose without fear of persecution. We still rejoice in this great land and in the civil and religious liberty it offers to all. And we still—and always—raise our voices in prayer to God, thanking Him in humility for the countless blessings He has bestowed on our Nation and our people.
Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world’s first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community. Each of us can be an instrument of blessing to those we touch this Thanksgiving Day—and every day of the year.
George W. Bush, Thanksgiving Proclamation 2008:
Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God…On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation’s first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.
Barak Obama, Thanksgiving Proclamation 2011:
One of our Nation’s oldest and most cherished traditions, Thanksgiving Day brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago, when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a bountiful season. The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims, and today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. We take this time to remember the ways that the First Americans have enriched our Nation’s heritage, from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. As we come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us…As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.
Barak Obama, Thanksgiving Day Address 2011: