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November 23, 2020 12:25 pm
This week on Family Policy Matters, NC Family brings you a special Thanksgiving episode, featuring Melanie Kirkpatrick to discuss her new book on this special holiday. Kirkpatrick shares some surprising facts most Americans won’t know about Thanksgiving, and why it is such a uniquely American holiday.
Welcome to family policy matters in engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that she will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion, family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters. Tracy Devitt Griggs thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters Thanksgiving holiday at the heart of the American experience. What's the name of the book written by today's guest. The book synopsis reads award-winning author Melanie Kirkpatrick journeys through four centuries of history, giving us a vivid portrait drying on newspaper accounts private correspondence historical documents and cookbooks. Melanie Kirkpatrick is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a longtime member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Melanie Kirkpatrick went up to family policy matters. Such a pleasure to be with you. So start off by telling us what makes Thanksgiving such a unique and American holiday.
Lots of countries have harvest festivals where people gather in the autumn to celebrate the harvest and give thanks Americas is special because it's unlinked with a lot of events and our history as I learned when I researched it for my book and I also think there is one distinct difference that Doug would be of special interest to your readers, which is is that Thanksgiving is a holiday in America that can be celebrated by people of any faith, and of all faiths and also of no face it's a religious holiday, but it doesn't specify which religions can and cannot celebrated one of the things I learned in researching Thanksgiving was that the idea of helping the less fortunate has been closely tied with the holiday almost since the beginning just a few years after the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Massachusetts another town and another settlement to the English settlement in thanks in Massachusetts down to Scituate had a Thanksgiving celebration and it's the first written record of celebrating Thanksgiving by helping the less fortunate. And it says that after the church service. They had a meal in the richer sort help the poorer sort and I really loved that image and it stuck with us throughout the centuries, generosity, and that is an American trade in general, but I think around Thanksgiving.
It really peaks and people in the industry of philanthropy, collect call Thanksgiving the start of the giving season, and surely it is Americans had the highest rate of not just giving in America in the world, the highest rate of volunteering and there is certainly II don't know the percentage but certainly a high percentage of people who do volunteer work are motivated by their own religious faith will I wish I could say that we have no reason to remind people about the origins of Thanksgiving, but perhaps a just very brief refresher would be in order if you would sure I'd say I think you mean the pilgrims and the Native American. I think that's what we all remember from school right and you know the basic story of the pilgrims and the Indians is accurate sometime in the autumn of 1621 just after the first harvest that the English the pilgrims had in the New World. They sat down for a celebration. The suite we know it was a three day celebration and about half the pilgrims had died in the first year that they were in America. They died of the elements. It was very cold here or lack of nutrition or disease so they were just a small number about 50 and their two eyewitness accounts written by pilgrims of the event and they mentioned that 90 Indian men came to celebrate with them and the men brought with them to dear and sweetie are part of me which would've been enough to feed everybody for several days so that was the basic story and it is true that the settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilgrims and the native Americans who live nearby. The Wampanoag people had very good relationship and it was a peaceful, profitable friendship for the two peoples for a few number of years, but it eventually dissolved into war, and as we know, the Native Americans were decimated and so today you hear people complaining about Thanksgiving as a holiday that celebrates the murder of Native Americans and that is incorrect. The holiday represented a moment in time before the violence began, and I think it pointed points the way to the better people that we all have become a better time that we all now live in a great way to put some surprising things in your book. So what are some things that many of us may not know about that event well speaking of the pilgrims and the Native Americans. One of the things I learned was that in those two eyewitnesses witness accounts of the first Thanksgiving that I mentioned a minute ago.
There's no mention of the word Thanksgiving and it wasn't until three years later, in 1624 from the pilgrims point of view. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated and that Thanksgiving was called in July 1624 I think and it was to rejoice, to give thanks to God for a rainfall that had saved their crops there been a long drought since they planted and this rainfall made it possible for their crops to grow and it same to the community because it meant the come fall, they would have food to keep them through the winter Thanksgiving has actually been controversy all at various times in American history has in it tell us about that. This is one of the most interesting things I learned in my research. In 1789 when the first Congress of the United States was meeting in New York City which was then the capital of the United States. They been meeting for many months debating the Constitution and how to implement it and they decided that the Congress decided that they wanted to take a break and thought it would be appropriate for Pres. Washington to declare a Thanksgiving day. Now this set off a vehement debate in the first Congress for two reasons, something Congress believed that asking the president to declare Thanksgiving was unconstitutional apply because the president they said did not have the authority to do that that kind of authority was left to the governors of the 13 states not to a central authority in Washington and the second reason that people raised objections to the president calling a Thanksgiving was that it was a religious holiday was the argument and because it was a religious holiday that was outside the purview of the federal government. The president did not have the authority to intervene in any way in. I religious matters: the end, we don't know the exact vote Congress voted to ask the president to declare Thanksgiving day and Washington did something that just shows what a great man he was.
He issued his proclamation and it was the first presidential proclamation by the way he issued his Thanksgiving proclamation and then I and he sent it to every governor and instead ordering them to call a Thanksgiving day. He requested them to do so. So what he was doing was indicating to everybody that he wasn't usurping any authority he was enlisting the governors to do this, not telling them to do it then did that was terrific was a in his two Thanksgiving proclamations. He also issued one on a couple of years later he made it clear that Thanksgiving was opened to Americans of all religions. It wasn't just a Christian holiday and I thought that was wonderful to and most presidents have followed that example though because some governors have got this. Was curious as well and there may even be some listeners here who will remember back as far as the 1930s and early 40s when this happened, but in 1939, Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving. It is always been on the last Thursday of the month and he changed it to an earlier date. The third Thursday, I think, and the set off a big eruption in the country and it was traditionalists fighting against the.
The idea of anybody tinkering with the sacred subject of Thanksgiving and half the country ended up celebrating Thanksgiving on their traditional date and the other half celebrated on the date that Roosevelt named.
Eventually they worked it out and in 1941, Congress passed a resolution naming thing making Thanksgiving enshrined in law before and hadn't been in law was just up to the president to decide and Thanksgiving in 1941 after 1941 was has always been the fourth Thursday of November. Interesting. Thank you so this of course has been a challenging year for all of us so Thanksgiving look like during other turbulent and divided times in our nations history our modern day Thanksgiving began in the middle of the Civil War, and if there is a more turbulent period in our history. I can't think of it, certainly with Americans fighting Americans is a much more turbulent time than what we are experiencing. Even today, so Lincoln I thought did something very beautiful in 1863, he issued a Thanksgiving proclamation at the urging of a woman who, by the name of Sarah Joseph Hale had been. She was editor of the most popular magazine of America, which in itself is of fantastic story and for 30 years she had been conducting a campaign in the pages of her magazine to get a president to declare a national Thanksgiving day. She thought that if all American celebrated gave thanks, sat down and thought about the blessings of liberty if it did it all together on the same day that the Civil War, a civil war could be avoided.
Of course she was wrong, and more began. But in 63 what Lincoln likes the idea that she had, and in response to a letter from her. He issued a Thanksgiving proclamation and he had a beautiful phrase in it, he called on Americans with one heart and one voice to celebrate, to give thanks come together and give thanks and you know he knew that the war was on, but it was clear at this point that the union was going to win, and that the country would be back together again in at some. And so Lincoln's message was looking forward to that time when Americans would all come together again as one nation and it's a beautiful message to send in the middle of the blood and the fighting that was going on think you were just about out of time for this week. I hope people will check out your book because it more of this history, it has stud traditions and even some recipes and they are Melanie where can our listeners go to get a copy of your book all of you for asking. It's available on Amazon and also at the barnesandnoble.com, Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Thanksgiving the holiday at the heart of the American experience. Thank you for being with us today on family policy matters enjoyed speaking to you. Thank you for the opportunity you've been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and pointed to him again next week to listen to the show on lawn and to learn more about NC families want to inform, encourage and inspire families across been through a lot of our website it NC family.want. That's NC family.org books again for listening and may God bless you and your family