In his Thanksgiving Day message, President Barack Obama said Thanksgiving, is a day to count our blessings because we all have something to be grateful for. We can be thankful that we live in a country where all of us are created equal. “And as president,” he said “I am thankful I get to see the best of America every day.”
He began his address saying that in 1620, a group of refugees came to America on the Mayflower to flee persecution and violence in their native land. “Nearly 400 years later we remember their story.”
“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims – men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,” Obama said in his address. “What makes America America is that we offer that chance. All God’s children are worthy of compassion and care and that is what makes this the greatest country on earth.”
The president recognized the greatness of America as evidenced by the generosity of its people. He said our greatness comes from all those who volunteer at food banks and shelters all year to make sure no one goes hungry. That generosity, he said, is evidenced by all the Americans who take part, not just in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but also on Giving Tuesday. The holidays, he said, are important for giving, not just what you get.
President Obama said every day he receives letters and emails from Americans wanting to open their homes to refugees. He praised Americans who have already opened their homes to refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Many Americans have also opened their home to thousands of unaccompanied minors who fled oppression and possible death in Central America despite demands they all be sent back by many politicians, mostly Republicans.
“One woman from Pennsylvania wrote to me to say, ‘Money is tight for us in my household. … But I have a guest room. I have a pantry full of food. We can do this,’ ” Obama added, “Another woman from Florida told me her family’s history dates back to the Mayflower — and she said that welcoming other is part of ‘what it means to be an American.’ ”
The president called for citizens to put the “generosity” of America on full display by welcoming refugees into the country with arms wide open.”
This call for compassion is likely to be blasted by Republicans and others who want to ban refugees, particularly those from Muslim countries. They will take special exception to Obama comparing Syrian refugees to the refugees on the Mayflower. The governors of 31 states, all but one Republicans, have blocked any Syrian refugees from entering their states. The House has passed a bill that would effectively ban Syrian refugees altogether despite the most stringent screening policies in the world.
Some candidates have gone so far as to call for closing Mosques and requiring Muslims to register and carry special ID like Jews were required to do no Nazi Germany before they were rounded up, sent to camps, and slaughtered. One candidate said a Muslim should not be allowed to run for president. Congressman Steve King (R-IA) said Wednesday after endorsing Ted Cruz that Muslims are not compatible with America because of Sharia law.
Nevertheless, the president wanted Americans to remember who we are as a nation. The Statue of Liberty, he said, shines its light to the world. The inscription tells us to bring in the huddled masses yearning to be free.
“I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones and full of joy and gratitude,” the president said in conclusion. “And together, may we all play our own small part in the American story, and write a next chapter that future generations can be thankful for.”
Today of all days, we should remember that the first non-native Americans were not only immigrants, but also refugees. Those refugees were welcomed by the Native Americans who shared the first Thanksgiving with the refugees called Pilgrims. That is our heritage. It is sacrilegious to turn our back on others who are just like us.