November heralds the coming holiday season and its joyous celebrations. It contains, of course, our national holiday of Thanksgiving, a day of collective gratitude for the many blessings and benefits bestowed upon us throughout the year. This season I hope it may, as well, provide a welcome respite from our current cultural turmoil and give us an opportunity to strengthen our resolve to come together as Americans.
I have always taken a personal interest in the Pilgrims’ story and the challenges they faced and overcame in the New World. George Pardee, my family’s early forbear, came to the American Colonies in 1638. He was born in Somerset, England, the son of a Methodist minister and immigrated as an indentured servant to a tailor in New Haven, Connecticut. After serving his indenture he became active in the early development of the city of New Haven and was appointed provost of its first educational establishment, the Hopkins Grammar School. For me, as an amateur historian and proud admirer of the early colonists, Thanksgiving regularly prompts me to reflect on the contributions made by these early European inhabitants of the continent and the singularly important role they played in the emergence of our country. Theirs were efforts for which we should be eternally grateful.
U.S. presidents since the time of George Washington have issued proclamations concerning this hallowed day of acknowledgment with which you may be familiar. However, I would like to offer the words of Governor Wilber Cross of Connecticut who, in the depths of the Great Depression, spoke with particular poignancy to the citizens of his state. He said, “…at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year…for the blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved State with the favored regions of earth. For all the creature comforts — the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives — and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken man’s faith in his manhood, that nourish and strengthen his spirit to do the great work still before him: for the brotherly word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each to his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land; — that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.”
Oh, that we might likewise be as cognizant and grateful.