Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Senator-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas looks back on the history of Thanksgiving, from the Pilgrims at Plymouth, to the Civil War, to Pearl Harbor, to today.
Cotton says what all of these Thanksgivings have in common is the “gratitude for the blessings of a beneficent and loving Lord no matter the adversity of the times.”
Cotton also says he is grateful for American troops and their families.
“To each of you, on behalf of the people of a grateful nation, I extend our deepest thanks for your honorable and faithful service,” he says.
Read the full transcript of the GOP address:
Hello, I’m Tom Cotton, Senator-elect from Arkansas. I want to wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. For nearly as long as we’ve been a people, Americans have set aside a day for public thanksgiving for our many blessings.
Many trace our modern Thanksgiving back to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Despite the hardships of the coming New England winter, the unforgiving terrain and climate, and the dangers of settling a new land, these Pilgrims celebrated a feast to thank God for his provision and protection.
In the earliest days of our new and untested government, President Washington established a day of Thanksgiving for Americans to, in his words, acknowledge ‘with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.’
In the depths of the suffering and deprivation of the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a single day for a nationwide Thanksgiving, to help unify a deeply divided nation.
And just days after the shock of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed a congressional resolution establishing the fourth Thursday of November as our national day of Thanksgiving, a practice which continues today.
A constant among these Thanksgivings and the one we celebrate today is gratitude for the blessings of a beneficent and loving Lord no matter the adversity of the times. Today, we as nation no doubt face many challenges – too many of our fellow citizens out of work, too many families struggling to make ends meet, too many enemies plotting to do us harm. But we have faced graver challenges and not simply survived, but thrived.
It’s tempting to be consumed with these challenges – as individuals, as families, as a people – and neglect our many continued blessings. The bountiful harvests from our fields and the amazing fruits of our industry and commerce we all too often take for granted. Nor do we always cherish the even more valuable blessings of our natural rights, civil and religious freedom, and the rule of law. And we can overlook the blessings of family and the love for our children.
On this day of Thanksgiving, then, let us once again pause and reflect on these blessings, and also remember that we are not their author nor are they the work of our own hands. Rather, they are the gifts of a just and merciful God who loves us in spite of our failings. In deepest gratitude, we thank the Lord for these gifts and humbly petition for His continued Providence.
And, finally, we prayerfully commend to His care two groups of our fellow Americans in particular: our troops and their families.
For many, there will be no homecoming this week. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Korea, our troops continue to patrol the world to bring peace and security for us all. From Marines in Liberia to sailors across the oceans to airmen over the Asian skies to the sentinels standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, these troops will sacrifice the comforts of family and home so we can enjoy them.
To each of you, on behalf of the people of a grateful nation, I extend our deepest thanks for your honorable and faithful service.
And to your families, I extend similar thanks, and this personal assurance. Nine years ago, I was at Ranger School for Thanksgiving; six years ago, it was Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. While we deeply missed our own families, we also celebrated together as a second, surrogate family.
As you see the empty seat at your table this Thanksgiving, please know that your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, moms and dads miss you dearly, but are enjoying the next best thing to home: the camaraderie and love of their brothers and sisters in arms.
God bless them, God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
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