Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA. I'm Faith Lapidus. This
Thursday is a day for families and friends to share a special holiday meal and
think about what they are thankful for. This week on our program, we ask some
people to share their favorite memories of Thanksgiving Day.
Special English reporters June Simms and Dana Demange talked
to people about the holiday.
JIM OLDHAM: "My name is Jim Oldham and I'm from
Nashville, Tennessee. I remember my father drove a bus and my mother was a
waitress, and so we often didn't get to have Thanksgiving together. And I
remember when I was about twelve, her work and his work permitted us all to do
that. And we had brothers and sisters, and the traditional turkey and all the
trimmings. We always had pumpkin pie, and if we were really lucky, a little bit
of whipped cream on top. And it was just a wonderful day."
ANN GEIGER: "I'm Ann Geiger from Tucson, Arizona. Thanksgiving
is special for our family because like so many families our adult children live
around the country. And we usually get at least part of them together for
REPORTER: "And what is one of your fondest
Thanksgiving Day memories?"
ANN GEIGER: "Oh, I think a recent Thanksgiving
when my son and I had a turkey cook-off. He brined his turkey and I didn't
brine mine. And we decided which one was the best."
REPORTER: "Who won?"
ANN GEIGER: "He did."
Brining is a way to prepare meat in a salt solution, whether
for a competitive "cook-off" or just any meal. Traditionally the meat
served on Thanksgiving is turkey. The bird is usually served with side dishes
including a mixture known either as stuffing or dressing.
Many families also bring out their finest
table settings -- the "good china" -- for Thanksgiving.
JOEL UPTON: "My name is Joel Upton. I'm from Livingston,
Tennessee. Thanksgiving at my family was always a time when brothers and
sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, we all got together. And someone would
bring different dishes. Someone would bring the sweet potatoes. Someone would
bring the meat. Someone would bring the dressing. And we would all sort of
combine the efforts to have a family Thanksgiving dinner and bring out the good
china for that particular event.
And Thanksgiving also, in my early days when I
was a child, the kids would all get to play, maybe we hadn't seen each other
for a while. The men would always watch a football game on TV. And Thanksgiving
was just a really, really special time. And, of course, we had in mind the Pilgrims
and what it was all about too. But it was a family time."
The Pilgrims first arrived in America in sixteen
twenty. They were separatists from the Church of England and other settlers. The
ship that brought the first group was the Mayflower.
exploring party landed at Plymouth, in what became the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. The state is named after an American Indian tribe -- a
recognition of the groups that came long before the Pilgrims.
The first Pilgrims established a village. Those who
survived the first difficult years held harvest festivals and religious
celebrations of thanksgiving. These events formed the basis of the holiday that
Americans now celebrate.
But there are no official "rules"
for a Thanksgiving meal. Some people like to find ways to do things a little
BUTCH HUNSINGER: "Butch Hunsinger from
"The bird. What are you going to do differently this year?"
HUNSINGER: "Try to shoot it myself, instead of go to the store to buy it.
Go to the family cabin, and hunt on the family land and try to call in a turkey
and fire away."
"And who's the better shot in the family?"
"Oh my son, by far."
"What about your worst Thanksgiving memory?"
"Worst…[Laughter] The worst was also the funnest, 'cause I got up early
Thanksgiving day and we went to the Burwick Marathon, but it's a nine-mile road
race. Just a crusher." [Laughter]
MBELLA: "Hi, my name is Huguette Mbella. And I was born in Cameroon and
grew up in France. And I live now in the United States in Washington, D.C. The
whole concept of Thanksgiving was a little bit bizarre. In France, the main
celebration is Christmas, not Thanksgiving."
"Can you think of one of your most fond Thanksgiving memories?"
MBELLA: "I would say my first one. It was in New York. Suddenly the turkey
comes on the table, and I was amazed by the size. It was huge! The first thing
that came to my mind was actually that's a lot of food!"
ELIZABETH BRINKMAN: "My name is Elizabeth Brinkman
and I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. It was always a day that my mother did all the
cooking. And we had turkey and I got to chop the vegetables for the dressing.
And we got out the good china."
GORDON GEIGER: "Gordon Geiger from Tucson,
Arizona. We used to get together at my parents' house and all of my relatives
would come over and we'd have a big dinner. And after dinner we would watch football
games on the television.
I think it's probably really the most important
holiday in the United States because it is a day that is not tied to a
particular religion. It is not tied as much to commercial activities. It's more
a reflection of the fact that we've had a good life and we appreciate it."
This Thanksgiving, Americans can be thankful that the Great
Recession may be over. But the job market faces a long recovery. Unemployment is now above ten percent. And if
the underemployed are added, the rate is seventeen and a half percent. The
underemployed are people no longer searching for work or only able to find part
week, the United States Department of Agriculture released its "household food
security" report for two thousand eight. The study found that families in
seventeen million households had difficulty getting enough food at times during
the year. That was almost fifteen percent -- up from eleven percent in two
thousand seven. It was the highest level since the current surveys began in
Agriculture Department says poverty is the main cause of food insecurity and
hunger in the United States.
Obama, in a statement, called the report unsettling. Especially troubling, he
said, is that there were more than five hundred thousand families in which a
child experienced hunger multiple times during the year.
said the first task is to renew job growth, but added that his administration
is taking other steps to prevent hunger. These include an increase in aid for people
in the government's nutrition assistance program, commonly known as food
Continental Congress wrote the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in
seventeen seventy-seven, during the Revolutionary War. George Washington issued
the first presidential Thanksgiving proclamation in seventeen eighty-nine. Here
is part of what he wrote.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations 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 -- and whereas both houses
of Congress have by their joint committee requested me "to recommend to
the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be
observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of
Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to
establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the twenty-sixth day of November
next to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great
and glorious being, who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that
is, or that will be ...
Josepha Hale was a magazine editor and writer who campaigned for a Thanksgiving
holiday. That way, there would be "two great American national
festivals," she said, the other being Independence Day on the Fourth of
September of eighteen sixty-three, Sarah Josepha Hale appealed to President
Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had made proclamations in the spring of eighteen
sixty-two and sixty-three. But these gave thanks for victories in battle during
the Civil War.
Then came another proclamation on
October third, eighteen sixty-three. It gave more general thanks for the
blessings of the year. This is part of what it said:
midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes
seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has
been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been
respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the
theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by
the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the
fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow,
the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements,
and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded
even more abundantly than heretofore. ...
I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part
of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are
sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of
November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who
dwelleth in the heavens.
proclamation began a tradition. Presidents have issued Thanksgiving
proclamations every year since eighteen sixty-three. All can be found on the
Web site of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth.
nineteen forty-one, Franklin Roosevelt was president. Roosevelt approved a
resolution by Congress. It established,
by law, the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
program was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in
VOA Special English.