The original Thanksgiving Day was, perhaps, the first celebration on the soil of the Western Hemisphere by what would become a nation of immigrants.
The Pilgrims crossed the waters of the Atlantic Ocean at a time when travel by ship was treacherous and challenging, leaving their native England because they were being oppressed for the beliefs that they held. Fortunately for them, they were welcomed to the new land by its indigenous peoples, and allowed to establish their colony in what would come to be termed New England. From their stock, and from the stock of numerous immigrant populations in the years ahead, who also came to those and similar shores, most by choice but some against their will, would be born the United States of America, a nation whose founding fathers accepted as its motto, E Pluribus Unum, a Latin phrase that is translated as “one out of many.”
Grateful for the welcome they received, and for the instruction they were given in ways best to utilize all that the land offered them, the Pilgrim colony celebrated in 1621 with a dinner of thanksgiving to which they invited those same indigenous peoples. It was the very first “diversity dinner” on our shores, as persons whose complexions were not the same, whose clothing was radically different, and who spoke in tongues each of which was foreign to the other, broke bread and feasted on their fellowship in a spirit of love and thanksgiving.
So inspirational was this celebration that in 1863, in the midst of the great civil war that was being fought not with foreign nations but rather with other states of our own American nation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated each November. He did so in an effort to unify the divided nation by calling attention to the reality of all that America and its citizens had, and have, to be thankful for.
Today we find divergent views regarding issues such as immigration and tolerance for persons different from ourselves. As we celebrate our thanksgiving meals together, may we all be aware that we were born a nation of immigrants and we owe a sacred obligation to honor the traditions that have been passed to us by those who traveled far to cultivate this great land into the fertile and productive place that we all call home. Likewise, let us be thankful to the indigenous peoples who preserved this land for long periods of time prior the arrival of those of us of immigrant root who today are the dominant population.
With this awareness and spirit at heart do I, John A. Ostenburg, mayor of the Village of Park Forest, Illinois, in the counties of Cook and Will, hereby proclaim Thursday, November 26, 2015, in concert with the celebrations marked elsewhere in our great nation, a day of Thanksgiving in our community.
Furthermore, by virtue of this proclamation, may all our residents recognize the wonderful heritage that is ours and offer prayers of thanksgiving on that and every day for the many blessings we enjoy in large part because of the struggles of those who have gone before us.
And by further virtue of this proclamation do we express to those who have, and do, serve in military units of the United States, both at home and abroad, our most sincere thanks for their heroic efforts in maintaining and preserving the safety and sanctity of the United States of America.
To which have I set my hand this day, November 22, 2015.