Amid strife, reasons to be thankful: Where We Stand

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Orlando Sentinel editorial on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1968

Much like 2016, 1968 was a year of tumultuous political and cultural change for America. The echoes are familiar. A U.S. enemy abroad made unsettling gains. Street protests erupted throughout the year around the nation. A pair of U.S. black athletes raised their fists in protest as "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played at the Summer Olympics, inspiring both admiration and outrage. A sharply divided electorate decided the White House would go from Democratic to Republican control.

Amid that year's turmoil, Sentinel editors reminded readers on Thanksgiving Day of America's long tradition from colonial times of being grateful, even under far-more challenging circumstances. Here's the editorial the Sentinel published Nov. 28, 1968:


IN THIS AGE of dissent, disorder, and disenchantment with the established order, it is well to consider the conditions in America which existed at the time of the first Thanksgiving Day. Those hardy pioneers who stayed with it and laid the foundations for this great country really had something to complain about.

Denied the right to freedom of worship, they set sail from Delft Haven with two small ships in 1620. One of the ships promptly sprang a leak and proved unseaworthy, so they put in at Plymouth, transferred the passengers of the Speedwell to the Mayflower and started out again, now seriously overloaded with 102 men, women and children.


For two months they were buffeted by winds, rains and storms. Many of them were sick and one died, while a woman on board gave birth to a child. They had planned to go to Virginia where the colony of Jamestown had been established some 13 years before, but were driven off their course and finally arrived in Provincetown Harbor on Nov. 21.

It took them nearly a month to scout the coast and find a suitable landing place and finally on Dec. 26 they went ashore at Plymouth Rock and offered thanks to God for giving His blessing for the voyage they had undertaken "for the glory of God, and honor of our king and country, to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia." They still had left the task of building 19 houses from virgin timber in the dead of winter while fighting off attacks by wolves and Indians.

By the time spring had come, half their number were dead, but they set to work with vigor and determination, clearing the land, planting crops, erecting a church and warehouse and getting ready for another winter. By November the task was done. They had made friends with the Indians, they had harvested their crops and safely stored them. They were convinced that the worst was over and so they invited their Indian friends to join with them in a great feast of Thanksgiving.

Theirs was not the first Thanksgiving in America. Half a century earlier on June 30, 1564, French Huguenots under Rene de Laudonniere had held a similar celebration at Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River after weathering two years of similar trials and tribulations. They had suffered too from mosquitoes, malaria, hurricanes and attacks by the Indians and the Spaniards, but they had survived and they were thankful.

Colony after colony was established along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Florida under the most frightful conditions and yet they came. Generation after generation of English, Scots, Irish, French, Spaniards, Italians, Swedes, Germans, Hungarians, Africans, Poles and Russians continued to come to this country knowing that it would not be easy and that they were taking their lives in their hands. Yet they continued to come. And they were thankful.