DURING the depths of the long and brutal American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln saw the need for all Americans to observe a solemn day of reflection and gratitude, and so he established Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday.
Lincoln asked all Americans to express thanks to God "with one heart and one voice." He reminded his fellow countrymen that "we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown."
Those words, penned for a proclamation in 1863, still ring true.
Americans enjoy a high standard of living, with the U.S. dollar treated as the de facto international currency. Food prices are low, thanks to the greatest agricultural resources in the world. Technology allows instant communication, as well as access to a vast array of entertainment options.
Unemployment is low. Schooling is available for those of all ages seeking to improve their skills and career prospects. People are living longer, thanks to advances in health and wellness.
Low fuel prices and decades of strategic investments have made travel cheap and safe. In fact, AAA estimates that nearly 51 million Americans will travel this Thanksgiving -- the highest volume since 2005.
The number of Americans celebrating has grown beyond comprehension from the 50 or so Pilgrims who held a three-day feast at Plymouth Plantation with about 90 Native Americans in 1621.
Half of the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower had died during the first harsh years on this continent. And after a good harvest, they thanked their God and a neighboring tribe that helped them grow crops and hunt to survive.
The bleak prospects of the Pilgrims and the bloody years of the Civil War served to intensify the need for days of praise and thanksgiving.
President Ronald Reagan explained the holiday well when he said: "Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day."
Americans have much for which they should be grateful. With that in mind, we wish our readers and neighbors a holiday made brighter with feasting, family, faith and thankful hearts.