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Editorial flashback: Pivotal moments from past Thanksgivings

Thanksgiving Day has fallen at some key moments in U.S. history, shaping the holiday message from The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board. Here are excerpts from some Thanksgiving Day editorials over the last century.

Nov. 24, 1932

During the Great Depression and two weeks after Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated President Herbert Hoover:

Many Americans may feel on this Thanksgiving Day that they have precious little to be thankful for, and if they do feel that way no one has a right to blame them.

Nevertheless, if one takes a longer view – admittedly difficult to do when you are hungry and homeless – it may be seen that the nation has much to be thankful for today, more, indeed, than it has had for a long time.

We can be thankful that The People of this country recently had the intelligence and courage to kick over the old party lines, to throw overboard all the old political bunkum, to refuse to be stampeded by cries of panic, to demand in language too clear for misunderstanding a radical change in the theory and practice of their government. ...

This country can go on to the fulfillment of high destinies if it takes its chastening with wisdom and humility and if it retains faith in the essential soundness of Democratic institutions.

For all the evidence that it is doing both let us, then, be thankful on this day.

Nov. 22, 1945

Three months after the end of World War II:

Tomorrow Thanksgiving Day comes again to America – this time with the dark cloud of war lifted.

We cannot, and we should not, forget those whose place at the family table will be vacant – some forever.

Still, we rejoice that thousands of soldiers, sailors and marines have returned from distant shores to the family reunion and feast which hallow the holiday.

And thousands more are on their way.

So tomorrow in millions of American homes, a deep sense of personal gratitude for peace will add to the day’s bounteous feast and happy expressions of affection and friendship.

Yet it would be an act of selfish blindness and callous inhumanity to forget there are places in the world where there is not joy, but misery, not laughter and smiles, but tears.

Many wounds still remain to be healed, many hungry mouths to be fed.

Envy, intolerance, suspicion, misunderstanding, covetousness still exist in too many countries.

So as we lift our eyes to the Creator of all good and perfect things, in thankful remembrance, let it be joined with a word of entreaty for the whole human family that in the providence of God some day all peoples may join in a universal Thanksgiving Day, count their blessings and say of life, it is good to be here.

Nov. 28, 1963

Six days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and three days after his funeral:

One hundred years ago President Abraham Lincoln fixed the last Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving holiday, thereby ending the conflict in dates of the annual observance and giving it nationwide recognition.

Today, a century later, Thanksgiving still is being observed as it was in Lincoln’s day – and in the same spirit as that first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 when the Pilgrims broke bread and gave thanks. ...

There is still so much for which to be thankful. The nation is numbed by the death of its late president, John F. Kennedy, but we have begun to turn in that old way of man from the grave to life, and we give common thanks for the many blessings.

Nov. 27, 2008

Less than two months after the Wall Street meltdown that led to the Great Recession:

It looked like a scene from the Great Depression.

On Monday morning, people in need began lining up for free turkeys at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services in Oak Park well before dawn. The line soon stretched around four city blocks. Some waited four hours to get to the door, where volunteers handed out boxes of food – a fresh turkey with all the trimmings, dressing, rice, bread, gravy, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables and pastries.

Food Bank volunteers gave away about 5,000 turkeys over two days. ... The need for food assistance stretches well beyond Thanksgiving, of course. Beyond the high-profile annual turkey giveaway, the food bank hands out groceries to almost 17,000 people every month, a 20 percent jump over last year. Food Bank President Blake Young says that in his 12 years at the charity, he’s never seen as many people seeking help.