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Thanksgiving Remarks at St Paul's Cathedral

Ambassador Susman's Thanksgiving Remarks at St Paul's Cathedral

25 November 2010
An image from last year's Thanksgiving Day Service which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the St Paul's Thanksgiving Day service. (Photo courtesy of Roland Kemp)

An image from last year's Thanksgiving Day Service which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the St Paul's Thanksgiving Day service. (Photo courtesy of Roland Kemp)

(As prepared for delivery)

One of the great privileges of being the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s is having the opportunity to address the American community and British friends on Thanksgiving Day in this magnificent cathedral. 

It is an honor to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is so special to Americans, in a place so venerated by the British people.

Like many of you, I can remember those iconic images of St. Paul’s, standing dark and defiant amid the smoke, sirens and searchlights of the London Blitz, as if steadfast in the knowledge that this would pass, and victory would come.

That day did come, thanks to the brave Americans, British and other allies who stood together for freedom and saved democracy for the free world.

Americans and British alike will never forget the freedom we fought so hard for.

In 1621, when the Pilgrims gathered around for that first Thanksgiving feast, they celebrated the bountiful blessings of their families and gave thanks for the society they now lived in that was based on the foundation of freedom.

The tradition of giving thanks on this day was made official when our first President, George Washington, called for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,
To be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty god."

This holiday of Thanksgiving is a national celebration that makes room at the table for people of all races, origins and denominations, each giving thanks in their own way.

Today, we are especially thankful for the bounties of family.

The sitting down with family and friends and remembering special Thanksgivings of the past.

And we celebrate our togetherness with memories of family and feasts of turkey, cranberry and pumpkin pies.

And when we sit down, let us be reminded of President Kennedy’s eloquent 1961 Thanksgiving Proclamation to  use our strengths and blessings for those who have less, for we are our “brother’s keeper.”

President Kennedy said: “We are thankful for our freedom as a nation, for the beliefs and confidence we share;

For our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base;

And for the heritage of liberty, bequeathed by our ancestors, which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children’s children.

But we must remember to be mindful of those in many parts of the world where hunger is no stranger, where minimal health care does not exist, and to those who are without the blessings of liberty and freedom.

Today, the United States and the United Kingdom remain the world’s two greatest democracies.  But it is easy to take those freedoms for granted.

So let us also remember to offer a special prayer and words of appreciation for the men and women of the armed forces, who are away from their own families on this Thanksgiving.

Every day, every hour, they defend those freedoms we cherish, and we honor their courage and sacrifice as they serve their country.

Let us give special thanks, to our founding fathers whose optimism, ingenuity and creativity and just plain hard work built our nation.

Those qualities made America what it is today, and they established the foundation for us to face the challenges of the 21st century.

As we meet those challenges, we can draw our inspiration from one of the most-inspiring and enduring sentences ever written in the book of human history:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Like the twelve glorious bells in St. Paul’s Northwest Tower, may that message ring out forever. 

May we continue to build a world without fear.

In this stately cathedral which, through the years, has been such a symbol of courage and inspiration – let our prayers, hopes and actions work towards peace for all in the years ahead.
And to borrow from the historic words inscribed on the side of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, may we proclaim liberty throughout the world, unto all the inhabitants thereof.

From my family to all those gathered here, we wish you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving.

We wish our heartfelt blessings to everyone that will lead us into a year of peace and goodwill everywhere.

It is now my honor to read the Thanksgiving Day proclamation of the President of the United States, Barack Obama.



A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country.

This spirit brought together the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe -- who had been living and thriving around Plymouth, Massachusetts for thousands of years -- in an autumn harvest feast centuries ago.

This Thanksgiving Day, we reflect on the compassion and contributions of Native Americans, whose skill in agriculture helped the early colonists survive, and whose rich culture continues to add to our Nation's heritage.

We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings.

Thanksgiving Day is a time each year, dating back to our founding, when we lay aside the troubles and disagreements of the day and bow our heads in humble recognition of the providence bestowed upon our Nation.

Amidst the uncertainty of a fledgling experiment in democracy, President George Washington declared the first Thanksgiving in America, recounting the blessings of tranquility, union, and plenty that shined upon our young country.

In the dark days of the Civil War when the fate of our Union was in doubt, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day, calling for "the Almighty hand" to heal and restore our Nation.
In confronting the challenges of our day, we must draw strength from the resolve of previous generations who faced their own struggles and take comfort in knowing a brighter day has always dawned on our great land.

As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next, we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation.

This Thanksgiving Day, we remember that the freedoms and security we enjoy as Americans are protected by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

These patriots are willing to lay down their lives in our defense, and they and their families deserve our profound gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

This harvest season, we are also reminded of those experiencing the pangs of hunger or the hardship of economic insecurity.

Let us return the kindness and generosity we have seen throughout the year by helping our fellow citizens weather the storms of our day.

As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables;

In the simple gifts that mark our days;

In the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God.

Let us recall that our forebears met their challenges with hope and an unfailing spirit, and let us resolve to do the same.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 2010, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.

I encourage all the people of the United States to come together--

Whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors –

To give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-third day of November,

In the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty fifth.