Via Basel: Thanksgiving 1963

On this Thanksgiving Day 2017, nothing I or anybody else I know can say is more eloquent and relevant than President John F. Kennedy’s Proclamation 3560 on November 4, 1963. These pre-Thanksgiving proclamations had become a tradition since the birth of our nation. The soaring idealism, high cultured language, and compact historical perspective that pervades it is so powerfully inspiring and effective, alas nothing said or done these days can come even close to it.

Here is Proclamation 3560, by President John F. Kennedy:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God.

So too when the colonies achieved their independence, our first President in the first year of his first Administration proclaimed November 26, 1789, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God” and called upon the people of the new republic to “beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions… to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue . . . and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

And so too, in the midst of America’s tragic civil war, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November 1863 as a day to renew our gratitude for America’s “fruitful fields,” for our “national strength and vigor,” and for all our “singular deliverances and blessings.”

Much time has passed since the first colonists came to rocky shores and dark forests of an unknown continent, much time since President Washington led a young people into the experience of nationhood, much time since President Lincoln saw the American nation through the ordeal of fraternal war–and in these years our population, our plenty and our power have all grown apace. Today we are a nation of nearly two hundred million souls, stretching from coast to coast, on into the Pacific and north toward the Arctic, a nation enjoying the fruits of an ever-expanding agriculture and industry and achieving standards of living unknown in previous history. We give our humble thanks for this.

Yet, as our power has grown, so has our peril. Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers–for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings—let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals—and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.

Now, Therefore, I, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of the Congress approved December 26, 1941, 55 Stat. 862 (5 U.S.C. 87b), designating the fourth Thursday of November in each year as Thanksgiving Day, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 28, 1963, as a day of national thanksgiving.

On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this fourth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-eighth.


By the President:
Secretary of State

Sadly President Kennedy was not to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with his nation. He was assassinated a few days prior, on November 22, 1963. From the EIL family to each and every one of you readers A Very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Day.

Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, retired, he will have more time for that. And for the next adventure.

Credit: The American Presidency Project ™ 

Proclamation 3560, Thanksgiving, & 3561, National Day of Mourning, November 23, 1963 

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum 

John F. Kennedy Postage Stamps at USPS



One response to “Via Basel: Thanksgiving 1963”

  1. Joe Kilikevice says:

    Dear Basel,

    Thank you for posting this Thanksgiving proclamation by John Kennedy. I remember him fondly and so appreciate the elegance of his language and historical perspective, qualities so sadly lacking in presidential leadership today that prefers to “tell it like it is” using insult and rancor that expresses anything but the American values of respect, inclusiveness and truthfulness.

    The proclamation states, “Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers–for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate.”

    As an American deeply grateful for the blessings of our country and its people, (Immigrants all of us) I am deeply disappointed and troubled by the leadership we have at this time in history. We don’t deserve it given what has been achieved over the centuries by honorable men and women through honest struggle. May our collective gratitude bring us to the change of heart needed to adequately face the challenges of today.

    Thanksgiving blessings, with honor, faith, and decency of purpose,

    Br. Joe Kilikevice

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