Column: There’s plenty to celebrate on Thanksgiving
Q: Who launched a “day of thanksgiving” to unite America “with one heart and one voice”?
A: More than 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation, reminding a divided nation that we are united by “gracious gifts” that should be “solemnly, reverently, and gratefully” observed. The nation’s 16th president called for Americans at that time to set aside the last Thursday of November “as a day of thanksgiving and praise.”
Although the nation’s first president, George Washington, called for a “day of thanksgiving” to reflect upon America’s victorious quest for freedom and independence following the Revolutionary War, President Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 set the stage for the nation’s annual Thanksgiving holiday. Recognizing the tremendous cultural, political, racial, social and economic rifts stemming from America’s civil war, President Lincoln invited all Americans to remember the fallen, to reflect upon the nation’s founding principles and to give thanks for the abundance and blessings afforded by our Creator, as the pilgrims first did in 1621.
Using words of healing and wisdom that transcend the arc of time, President Lincoln’s proclamation for a day of thanksgiving applies to Americans today in the 21st century. Let us take stock on this day of national thanksgiving to restore hope for the “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union” of the United States of America. As a nation, we celebrate our free society, entrepreneurial spirit and way of life. We are blessed with individual rights, such as free speech, religious liberty and due process under the law. Our founding charters lay the foundation for self-governance, peace and prosperity.
As a nation, we also mourn the senseless and tragic loss of life to addiction, violence and terrorism. By the same measure, we are grateful to community first responders who serve around-the-clock to protect public safety and give thanks to the brave men and women in uniform who defend our precious freedoms and our nation’s sovereignty at home and abroad. For all those who foster peace and prosperity and answer the call for the greater good of society — including military, public and community service — America owes a debt of gratitude for your patriotism and sacrifice.
Q: What message do you have for Iowans this Thanksgiving?
A: As a lifelong family farmer, I give thanks for the natural resources that allow America’s stewards of the soil to earn a living and help feed and fuel the world.
Farmers spend long hours on the job, especially during the harvest season. I encourage those traveling for this holiday season to stay alert for farm machinery and be patient on the roads. And I urge my fellow farmers to be cautious and ever mindful of farm safety. Too many Iowa families grieve the loss of a loved one from a tragic farming accident.
Morning, noon and night, Iowa farmers are working in the fields, operating the combine, hauling grain, applying fertilizer and looking ahead to next spring. America is blessed to have farm families carry on this legacy of stewardship from one generation to the next. Last year Iowa farmers planted roughly 600,000 acres of cover crops that can include cereal rye, oats and clover to soak up nitrogen and help improve water quality and soil health. Adopting innovation and precision farming methods are helping farmers improve yields and embrace conservation practices.
For generations, Iowa farmers have answered the vocation of their profession and produced an affordable, abundant, wholesome food supply that also helps address food scarcity around the world. The USDA estimates a bumper crop this year, projecting Iowa farmers will haul in more than 500 million bushels of soybeans and 2.4 billion bushels of corn. Just consider that value-added agriculture keeps as much as 70 percent of the corn crop here in Iowa to produce ethanol and to feed livestock. Production agriculture and renewable energy anchor the state economy and provide a lifeline of food and energy security that strengthens U.S. national security.
Like millions of Americans gathering together on the fourth Thursday of November, I encourage Iowans to give thanks for the blessings of America’s bounty and for the farmers and workers who grow, harvest, transport, process, market and prepare the food gracing our tables. Every year, Barbara and I look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving Day and enjoy the traditional feast of food and family. We are grateful to call Iowa home; I count public service as the blessing of a lifetime and very much appreciate the opportunity to represent Iowans in the United States Senate. Thank you for keeping in touch and for helping to make representative government a legacy of our republic for generations to come.