This is the text of a Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving. The proclamation was issued on November 17, 1989, declaring November 23, 1989 as a day of thanksgiving to be observed by the nation.
Thanksgiving Day, 1989
By the President of the United States
On Thanksgiving Day, we Americans pause as a Nation to give thanks for the freedom and
prosperity with which we have been blessed by our Creator. Like the pilgrims who first settled in
this land, we offer praise to God for His goodness and generosity and rededicate ourselves to lives
of service and virtue in His sight.
This annual observance of Thanksgiving was a cherished American tradition even before our first
President, George Washington, issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. In
his first Inaugural Address, President Washington observed that “No people can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the
United States.” He noted that the American people – blessed with victory in their fight for
Independence and with an abundance of crops in their fields – owed God “some return of pious
gratitude.” Later, in a confidential note to his close advisor, James Madison, he asked “should the
sense of the Senate be taken on … a day of Thanksgiving?” George Washington thus led the way to a
Joint Resolution of Congress requesting the President to set aside “a day of public Thanksgiving
and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal Favors of
Through the eloquent words of President Washington’s initial Thanksgiving proclamation – the
first under the Constitution – we are reminded of our dependence upon our Heavenly Father and of
the debt of gratitude we owe to Him. “It is the Duty of all Nations,” wrote Washington, “to
acknowledge the Providence of almighty God, to obey his Will, to be grateful for his Benefits, and
humbly to implore His Protection and Favor.”
President Washington asked that on Thanksgiving Day the people of the United States:
unite in rendering unto [God] our sincere and humble Thanks for his kind Care and
Protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation; for … the great
degree of Tranquility, Union and Plenty which we have since enjoyed; for … the civil and religious
Liberty with which we are blessed, and … for all the great and various Favors which he hath been
pleased to confer upon us.
Two hundred years later, we continue to offer thanks to the Almighty – not only for the material
prosperity that our Nation enjoys, but also for the blessings of peace and freedom. Our Nation has
no greater treasures than these.
As we pause to acknowledge the kindnesses God has shown to us – and, indeed, His gift of life
itself – we do so in a spirit of humility as well as gratitude. When the United States was still a
fledgling democracy, President Washington asked the American people to unite in prayer to the
“great Lord and ruler of Nations,” in order to:
beseech him to pardon our national and other Transgressions; to enable us all, whether
in public or private Stations, to perform our several and relative Duties properly and punctually;
to render our national Government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a Government of
wise, just and constitutional Laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and
guide all Sovereigns and Nations … and to bless them with good Government, peace and
Today, we, too, pause on Thanksgiving with humble and contrite hearts, mindful of God’s mercy
and forgiveness and of our continued need for His protection and guidance. On this day, we also
remember that one gives praise to God not only through prayers of thanksgiving, but also through
obedience to His commandments and service to others, especially those less fortunate than
While some Presidents followed Washington’s precedent, and some State Governors did as well,
President Lincoln – despite being faced with the dark specter of civil war – renewed the practice
of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. This venerable tradition has been sustained by every
President since then, in times of strife as well as times of peace and prosperity.
Today, we continue to offer thanks and praise to our Creator, that “Great Author of every public
and private good,” for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. In so doing, we recall the
timeless words of the 100th Psalm:
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His
people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and
bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim
Thursday, November 23, 1989, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the American people
to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers
and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us and our Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of
our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America
the two hundred and fourteenth.