. . .[W]hile there are several past presidential Thanksgiving proclamations worth revisiting as 2020 comes to a merciful close, President Grover Cleveland’s 1888 proclamation is especially fitting to our present moment. A man of notoriously unimpeachable character and son of a Presbyterian minister, Cleveland’s Thanksgiving proclamations grasp the proper tenor of the holiday and are notable for a couple of “firsts.” . . .
To start, his statement poignantly acknowledges God’s hand in guiding the nation and reinforces the need for Americans to be faithful. Cleveland trusts that the American people will take the national day of Thanksgiving to refrain from work, and, instead, dedicate the holiday to offering sincere, heartfelt thanks for their many blessings.
Most notably, at the conclusion of his 1888 Thanksgiving proclamation, Cleveland mentions an “afflictive dispensation” that has stricken a portion of the nation, beseeching Americans to “acknowledge His mercy in setting bounds to the deadly march of pestilence,” and to “be chastened by sympathy with our fellow-countrymen who have suffered and who mourn.”
Americans living in the late 1880s weren’t battling the novel coronavirus, but they were suffering from continued outbreaks of cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, and yellow fever. So Cleveland took time in his 1888 Thanksgiving proclamation to reflect on both the tremendous gift that is life on this earth, as well as its fragile nature.
By calling on Americans to cherish life and to express sympathy and grieve with those who have lost loved ones to disease or illness, Cleveland was asking the men and women of the nation to follow through on two central precepts of Christian doctrine: to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (READ MORE FROM “Grover Cleveland Knew How Thanksgiving Could Lift up a Hurting Nation” HERE)