A nation's blessings: 50 years ago JFK marked his last Thanksgiving

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On Nov. 7, 1962, as John F. Kennedy signed the presidential proclamation for the Thanksgiving holiday, he joined the world in gratefulness that, days earlier, the United States and Russia had sidestepped a cataclysmic nuclear war.

JFK only hinted at the defused Cuban missile crisis, noting that "We recognize too that we live in a world of peril and change -- and in so uncertain a time we are all the more grateful for the indestructible gifts of hope and love, which sustain us in adversity and inspire us to labor unceasingly for a more perfect community within this nation and around the earth."

As he put pen to paper Kennedy had no way of knowing, of course, that the coming Thanksgiving would be his last. His assassination in Dallas a year later began a national mourning period that extended well beyond the 1963 holiday season.

An excerpt of his message, reprinted below, offers a timeless prescription for this distinctly American celebration. This Thanksgiving the Post-Gazette wishes its readers a table set with abundance and the warmth of friends and family.

"I urge that all observe this day with reverence and with humility.

"Let us renew the spirit of the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, lonely in an inscrutable wilderness, facing the dark unknown with a faith borne of their dedication to God and a fortitude drawn from their sense that all men were brothers.

"Let us renew that spirit by offering our thanks for uncovenanted mercies, beyond our desert or merit, and by resolving to meet the responsibilities placed upon us.

"Let us renew that spirit by sharing the abundance of this day with those less fortunate, in our own land and abroad. Let us renew that spirit by seeking always to establish larger communities of brotherhood.

"Let us renew that spirit by preparing our souls for the incertitudes ahead -- by being always ready to confront crisis with steadfastness and achievement with grace and modesty.

"Let us renew that spirit by concerting our energy and our hope with men and women everywhere that the world may move more rapidly toward the time when Thanksgiving may be a day of universal celebration.

"Let us renew that spirit by expressing our acceptance of the limitations of human striving and by affirming our duty to strive nonetheless, as Providence may direct us, toward a better world for all mankind."

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