Weekly Column

** Audio recording unavailable due to the Thanksgiving holiday**

On Thanksgiving Day, our country will once again unite in gratitude. We will halt our busy work schedules to huddle with those we love and continue a uniquely American tradition. For nearly four centuries, families and friends across our country have come together to give thanks for their blessings.

Throughout our nation’s history, giving thanks has carried us in times of peace and distress.

When a group of brave, fleeing Pilgrims first stepped foot on Plymouth Harbor, they were greeted by the bitterness of winter. With the help of the nearby Wampanoag tribe, the Pilgrims regained their health and strength. Those who survived the first year in America had plenty to be thankful for. What followed was the first recorded thanksgiving feast.

With a bent knee buried in the winter snow at Valley Forge, George Washington prayed to God for intervention in the pivotal hours of the Revolutionary War. In the first year of his presidency, Washington declared a day of giving thanks to honor “with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity to peaceably establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” 

President Lincoln later followed in the footsteps of our first commander-in-chief. In the midst of deep division during the Civil War, Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday. He called on all citizens to remember our many blessings, even in our country’s darkest hours.

Today, we celebrate our long-lasting ideals: freedom of religion, absence of tyranny, and unending passion for a unified country.

On this day, we also recognize that the protection of our freedoms is an unfinished task. For some families, as kitchen tables are laid with delicious helpings, there will be an empty seat. Fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters are stationed at all corners of the world to defend our way of life. I join all Americans in extending my sincere appreciation and prayers for Nebraskans, and their families, who are currently serving our nation in the Armed Forces.

For the past two Thanksgivings, I had the honor of visiting with our service members who were far from home for the holidays. In 2016, I was able to spend time with Nebraska troops stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. And last year, I was with Nebraska National Guard members stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the holiday. It’s always such a humbling experience to have the opportunity to thank them directly for their service and sacrifice. We are all thankful the United States possesses the strongest national defense in the world. We can gather together in peace because of their bravery and sacrifice.

This time of year, Americans are opening their hearts and hands to those less fortunate. Nebraska has always been home to those who understand the importance of a selfless spirit- it’s how we feed and fuel the world. Whether it’s handing out turkeys with the Salvation Army or volunteering at a local shelter, I encourage you to take time to consider on how you can help those in need in your community. 

Between the sweet aroma of cooked turkey, warmth of mashed potatoes, and touchdowns on TV, I encourage you to reflect on the blessings in your life this year. Let’s give thanks for the food on our tables and time cherished with family and friends. And let’s offer our prayers for the men and women who make this possible.

From my family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.