Time out of mind 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. In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November, as a day of Public Thanksgiving 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.
I myself (all about me) like this because Cross, who held a Ph.D. in English from Yale and was dean of the University’s graduate school for almost 15 years, used imagery that maybe doesn’t soar but does turn down a road generally not taken in expressions of civil religion. I also prefer such proclamations to come from state governments rather than the Feds.
But I do wonder if such an expression of thanksgiving to the divine would be sufficiently devout for the BeeBees, for instance. At the same time, I can’t help but think of Jewish Americans, like the ones portrayed in Avalon and Annie Hall, who could never figure out why they needed to eat Turkey once a year.