Discourses

Thanksgiving is one of two quintessentially American holidays. The other, of course, is the Fourth of July.

Thanksgiving is first in order of time. July Fourth is first in order of principle.

July Fourth marks the time of our common cause and dedication to the idea that all men are created equal. It marks what we collectively believe in and stand for.

Thanksgiving is when we look back in time and express our gratitude. –Gratitude for the daring of the early European settlers who crossed the broad, indifferent Atlantic to start a new life in a new land; gratitude for the goodwill and magnanimity of the Wampanoag who celebrated that notable feast day with the settlers of Plymouth Colony, and gratitude for the promise of this good land we call America.

Today, in 2018, we have the goodly inheritance of those days when our ancestors took stock of who they were, what they stood for, and for what they were thankful. This day of thanks we Americans might consider the link between the nation’s two special holidays.

For all of the political differences and animosities of our time, for this day of Thanksgiving, let us remember that we are still “one people,” and that we share in a debt of gratitude to the land that calls us to see in America something more than ourselves.

Colleen A. Sheehan is Professor of Politics at Villanova University and Director of the Ryan Center for Free Institutions and the Public Good. She has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She is author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government and co-editor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists 1787-1788. She has published numerous articles on the American Founding and eighteenth century political and moral thought, in journals such as William and Mary Quarterly, American Political Science Review, Review of Politics, and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal. She is a contributor to the Claremont Review of Books.

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