Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Thanksgiving and three of the top four of Mount Rushmore

Thanksgiving and three of the top four of Mount Rushmore
Getty Images

Lockard has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Northern Iowa (1994) and has continued classes at the Writer’s Workshop in Iowa City. She writes regularly for "The Courier", a regional newspaper, and has published several short stories and poetry. Amy and her husband live in Cedar Falls, Iowa with the youngest three of their eight children.

This week, on Thursday, our nation will celebrate—no, not Black Friday’s Eve— but Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally most of us have considered Thanksgiving a holiday created to celebrate our heritage, revolving around the pilgrims and Native Americans and the first Thanksgiving feast, a day centered around food and family.


But the impetus for the Thanksgiving holiday was born of something much deeper. It was a national call from three of our greatest presidents for our citizens to pause and give thanks, a proclamation at critical times in our history, which reflected their own psyches and their hopes for our country.

These presidents: Washington, Lincoln and (Theodore) Roosevelt, not coincidentally three of “Four of Mount Rushmore” were each instrumental in creating and maintaining Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Despite their individual reputations and high standing, they felt it necessary that they, and we, humble ourselves and give thanks for our country. They believed thankfulness an essential component of a strong individual, as well as of a strong nation.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

George Washington originated the idea, with his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, declaring a day of public thanks to be observed in November of that year. Our first president thought it essential we pause for reflection, to ask for guidance for our new nation as it established itself after the Revolutionary War and to give thanks for victory.

Subsequent presidents let the states decide when and if Thanksgiving would be celebrated, until our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, reinstated it as a national tradition in 1863. In the midst of the Civil War, at the helm of the worst internal conflict in our country’s history, he deemed it necessary to give thanks for “peace preserved with all (other) nations, (that) order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except the theatre of military conflict,” and set the date for Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November.

Our twenty-sixth president, Teddy Roosevelt, assuming the presidency after McKinley was assassinated, when there was a “keen anxiety for the country” (sound familiar?) issued Proclamation 822 in 1908, establishing the fourth Thursday of November as a day for thanksgiving and making it a national holiday. He wrote, “The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; the best of all are the things of the soul; for in the national as in the individual, in the long run it is character which counts.”

Each of these great men personally possessed the “golden” character trait of thankfulness. They knew gratitude could pull citizens from the cynicism or despair of their times by shifting the focus and each was instrumental in shaping our nation’s spirit, reminding us how essential it is to be thankful for our country and its providence.

The “gratitude thing” is now a commercially popular concept. There are dozens of gratitude journals and books, podcasts and shows, vying to teach us to be grateful and promoting the powers of daily positive thinking as a recipe for happiness. Tailored to every segment of the population and ranging from religious to scientific, all encourage us to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.”

However, gratitude is, obviously, not a new concept and many of these reflections miss a bigger point. Recording our personal victories and wishes fulfilled has value, but in a larger sense we who are lucky enough to live in this country have already hit the jackpot, and very often without recognizing it. Without working to maintain our standing through appreciating it, we have the propensity to turn our tremendous fortune into misfortune.

However expressed in each of us, this quality of thankfulness is bigger than any of us. It is a necessary element in happy individuals and a critical part of the make-up of a vibrant nation. It is the fount of every blessing, the wind in our sails, the center of our joy. Thankfulness is the calm middle in the whirling dervish we call life, the ability to see not what’s wrong, but appreciate what is right, even the impetus to right the wrongs.

Call it then Gratitude. Or Love. Call it God or our Higher Power or the Better Part of Humanity. Call it Joy or our Song or Blessings. Or Good Fortune.

But call it; and do all you can to keep it. Call it Thanksgiving.

Read More

People marching

Black Lives Matter protesters march in New York.

Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Progress is won by pursuing justice, not waiting patiently in line

Agbo is the CEO of the Kataly Foundation and the managing director of the foundation’s Restorative Economies Fund.

It’s another election year. Another year when the stakes are sky high and the promise of our democracy is in peril. Another year when people — primarily people of color — are asked to put aside differences and come together to save our country.

What is the responsibility of philanthropy in yet another moment of political uncertainty?

Keep ReadingShow less
Shoe lying on the stage

A shoe is left on stage after a former President Donald Trump was ushered off by the Secret Service following an assassination attempt on July 13.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The assassination attempt: Reflections from The Fulcrum contributors

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

I woke up Sunday morning, like I am sure you all did, attempting to process Saturday's assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump.

In my role as co-publisher of The Fulcrum I immediately started thinking about how we should respond and started to write a column with my thoughts. But first I needed to figure out my approach.

Keep ReadingShow less
American flag hanging amid spotlights

The FBI, ATF and other law enforcement agencies work at the crime scene where a gunman attempted to assassinate former President Donald Trump on July 13.

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

The language of violence

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

Real violence erupted at a presidential campaign rally on Saturday night. Rare though it was, it was still a sickening sight.

Tragically, metaphorical violence as part of campaign speeches is not at all rare. Democrats and Republicans — Biden and Trump, Harris and Haley, DeSantis and Kennedy, you name it — throw around allusions to violence as if we are currently engaged in some domestic incursion.

Keep ReadingShow less
The American tragedy of the Trump assassination attempt

The American tragedy of the Trump assassination attempt

Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, is of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy. Sarat is a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College.

Saturday’s assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump was a crime against the entire country and against democracy itself. Every American should be grateful that it failed, and that Trump has survived it.

Let’s say it plainly. It is an abomination that he was wounded as he campaigned for a return to the White House. Every one of us has an obligation to examine what we can do to stop any kind of recurrence.

Keep ReadingShow less
broken American flag
traffic_analyzer/Getty Images

It's never too late to act

Sturner, the author of “Fairness Matters,” is the managing partner of Entourage Effect Capital.

This is the second entry in the “Fairness Matters” series, examining structural problems with the current political systems, critical policies issues that are going unaddressed and the state of the 2024 election.

Keep ReadingShow less