My Thanksgiving Toast
This is my Thanksgiving toast–I would like to share it with my readers: I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends:
I consider it a great honor that you have chosen to be here today, out of all the places you could have spent your holiday, that you have decided to attend this gathering. Some of you have come a great distance, and it is a dream come true for me to look around and see your faces here. Others of us have spent countless holidays together, under vastly different circumstances. And yet, here we are. The interweaving of the tapestry of all of our lives remains a work in progress.
I want to extend an especially warm welcome to [my nephew], the newest member of our family… By our children, our spirit is constantly renewed and strengthened.
Since it is Thanksgiving, I want to speak about gratitude. Often we hear people express gratitude almost as an obligation. When I was growing up, this demand came with the not-so-subtle implication that if we did not give God the glory for the goodness in our lives, that it might be taken away. We might be cast out of the garden, our ingratitude mingled with that “pride which goeth before a fall,” and we would deserve whatever calamities might befall us.
I want to turn that around today. I have a far more authentic expression to share with you of what gratitude means. I want to express my gratitude to YOU, each and every one of you. I am grateful for your friendship, your loyalty, your love. But I am grateful to you and you alone for who and what you have become. What you have–by your own hard work and long suffering–made and carved out of the raw materials of your life. I am gratified and overwhelmed.
The feast before us was bought, paid for, and prepared through OUR hard work and dedication. Yours and mine. This country in which we live is great because of its people and what they do, not what they believe.
We are not great just because we are Americans. And as Americans, we will be judged by how we move in the world, the example we set, and how we treat other nations. In this sense, we have the opportunity to reflect today on the material advantages we enjoy, and what this really means to the other 6 billion people with whom we share this earth.
For it is not God who has brought us our prosperity, but a combination of brilliant leadership by our forefathers, and frankly the luck, good timing, and even ruthlessness of those who sought to “tame” the North American continent for us, and those who maintained the strength of our country so far through its 230 year history. But for the natives, some of whom even shared in that first Thanksgiving in 1621, the story did not have such a happy ending.
I want to remember those and others who we Americans have not treated well. Though there was a certain historic inevitability about the sweep across the continent, and our subsequent rise to military, financial, and political dominance–our prosperity does indeed have its dark side. So as we enjoy our bounty today, we must acknowledge the costs, the darkness, and above all, we cannot take it for granted. Our gratitude must become wise and mature, rather than a simple sense of divine entitlement.
I hope we all live to see a time of the dissolving of national boundaries, an inspired world government, and a lasting peace. I hope we live to see the day when religion is truly history, and we all live together in John Lennon’s “brotherhood of man.” (And woman, I might add.) I hope we can all celebrate a future Thanksgiving together, when every citizen of the world can enjoy a feast such as we are about to share.
I close with words of prayer spoken by the faithful all over the world. I speak these words now, not as a benediction, but with respect for their universality and tradition, and as an expression of solidarity with their humanity. And in the hope that those who live by these creeds might one day awaken to the true appreciation of the wonders of the universe in which they live. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of religious divisions and violence, it is my sincere hope they will one day emerge into the full awareness of the source of all true meaning: the profound and natural wonder of consciousness and innate potential that lies within the bodies and minds of every human being, waiting to be discovered and expressed.
And so my friends and family, Shalom, Peace be upon you, Salaam, Namaste, Amen, and May the Force be with you. Ho.