For the fourth straight year, the Thanksgiving message from President Barack Obama fails to actually thank God — which is the fundamental reason why Thanksgiving is observed.
In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation that set forth the main reason for Thanksgiving, saying, “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.”
President Abraham Lincoln, who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, also understood the religious context upon which it was founded.
“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. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are 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,” he wrote.
But, to President Obama, Thanksgiving is about food and football, according to his official remarks as distributed by the White House.
“For us, like so many of you, this is a day full of family and friends; food and football. It’s a day to fight the overwhelming urge to take a nap – at least until after dinner,” Obama said.
In other the third paragraph of the Thanksgiving message, Obama moves on to politics.
“That’s especially important this year. As a nation, we’ve just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy, and vital to our democracy. But it also required us to make choices – and sometimes those choices led us to focus on what sets us apart instead of what ties us together; on what candidate we support instead of what country we belong to,” he said.
Obama eventually mentions blessings and later, in passing, says, “Because there but for the grace of God go I.” The rest of the message is a nice one about helping the hurricane victims, honoring our troops, and bringing Americans together. But nowhere in the text is there an actual thanks to the Lord for his blessings on the nation or a recognition that that is the reason for Thanksgiving.
UPDATE: Conservative writer Warren Throckmorton says there is a fine line in the analysis:
I think it would be fair to point out that the official proclamations do indeed thank God. This year he mentioned the Washington and Lincoln’s proclamations.I don’t know how many people see them. I suppose if they are ignored then people won’t know about them. I do know that they are the official proclamation of the President in line with the other proclamations made by other Presidents through history.
According to the historian who wrote the research note, the proclamations “carry the same force of law as executive orders.” Other presidents have made the proclamations, some with more or less references to God.
What most people would think of as a resolution (his proclamation) does mention God as have all of them.
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Conservative writer Ben Shapiro noticed this and points out that this is the fourth year in a row in which Obama has not actually thanked God in his Thanksgiving message.
But, of course, we’re used to this. In 2011, there was no mention of God at all. In 2010, Obama was closer, but still missed the mark (“we’ll spend some time taking stock of what we’re thankful for: the God-given bounty of America, and the blessings of one another”). In 2009, Obama didn’t thank God, either.