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Like every Thanksgiving, I’ll be home in South Dakota, celebrating with my family: my wife, my daughters, my sons-in-law, and my four – soon to be five! – grandchildren. I’ll be taking on my traditional job of carving the turkey – and helping with the dishes afterward. I’m looking forward to a lot of good pie – apple pie à la mode, pumpkin (with a lot of whipped cream), and my favorite, anything in the cream pie family.
I’m also looking forward to spending time outdoors. My daughters and I traditionally go on a trail run on Thanksgiving morning – it’s a good way to work up an appetite for all that pie – and we all enjoy throwing around a football before or after the meal.
South Dakotans are pretty resilient when it comes to being out in the cold, and as long as we don’t have tons of snow, we like to get outdoors on Thanksgiving. Like many South Dakotans, I also love to squeeze in a little pheasant hunting over Thanksgiving weekend whenever I can. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I love sitting down with my whole family – and extended family – and getting to spend time in the outdoors before winter really hits us.
Our current celebration of Thanksgiving can be traced to Abraham Lincoln, who issued a proclamation in 1863 inviting a national celebration of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress codified the Thanksgiving holiday and permanently set the date as the fourth Thursday in November. I don’t think it’s too surprising that the celebration of Thanksgiving is a recurring part of our history.
On Thanksgiving in my family, typically we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. And in this country, that’s a pretty long list. The tremendous natural riches of this country, from great rivers to magnificent mountains to our wide-open access to the sea. The tremendous freedom we enjoy. In the twenty-first century, freedom of religion, of speech, of the press – and other freedoms, like the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, or excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments – all of these freedoms that we so often simply take for granted are still unknown to too many people across the world.
The United States is not perfect, and we don’t always get it right, but we enjoy tremendous blessings in this country, and it’s important not to take them for granted. Thanksgiving gives us a chance to pause and reflect on all we’ve been given.
I am grateful to God for so many blessings this year.
I am thankful for the great blessing of my family – my dad Harold, a World War II naval aviator who will turn 100 next month; my brothers and sister; my wife Kimberley, the best thing in my life; my beautiful daughters and my sons-in-law; and our grandchildren – pretty much the most amazing grandkids ever, in my own unbiased opinion.
I’m thankful for the great state of South Dakota – for our fresh air and wide-open spaces, from the prairies of farm country to the rugged terrain of the Black Hills. South Dakotans are a resilient, kind, and gracious people, and I’m thankful every day that I am lucky enough to call South Dakota home.
I’m also tremendously grateful for the work I get to do. Getting to represent South Dakotans in the Senate is one of the great privileges of my life. And while it’s been a contentious year with a divided Congress, I’ve still had the chance to continue to work on important issues affecting people in my state and around the country, like helping our nation’s farmers and ranchers in this tough agriculture economy.
I’m grateful for the privilege of living in this great country, and I am grateful for all the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. Our military men and women represent the very best of America, and I am grateful every day for their service and sacrifice.
In that 1863 proclamation of Thanksgiving Day that I mentioned, Abraham Lincoln, referring to the blessings America had experienced even in the midst of the horrors of the Civil War, said, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
God has blessed us with very great gifts in this country, and it is indeed fit and proper that we should dedicate a day to reverently and gratefully acknowledge them.