Lincoln: A Source of Thanksgiving Perspective

Posted 11.27.2008

Lincoln As the Obama administration takes shape, there have been a lot of comparisons and commentary on the “team of rivals” inspiration that the President-elect has taken from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln and his cabinet.  While it’s well known that Lincoln was the president who proclaimed an annual day of Thanksgiving in the United States on the last Thursday of November, it is often overlooked that the proclamation was written by his Secretary of State (and rival for the presidency), William Seward.

The proclamation is worth reading today as a source of historical perspective.  Written in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, the document written by Seward and signed by Lincoln catalogs the many positive things that occurred in the same year as the Battle of Gettysburg.  The two men’s capacity to stand apart from the turmoil raging around them and look at the bigger picture is really stunning.  It makes me think about the list of gifts and blessings that we could write today in the midst of the current challenges in the economic and geo-political environments.  Seward and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation is an amazing example of leaders defining reality while also offering hope.  They acknowledged the challenges of the time but could also define the good things that were happening that offered hope for the future.

As a leader and a citizen, what are you thankful for that gives you hope for the future?  What can you do to share that hope with others who need it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving.