This week we will congregate with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. Millions of Americans will gather around the table to feast on turkey and all the fixing’s and to tune in to one of the traditional Thanksgiving Day football games.
The celebration of Thanksgiving is one of remembrance and gratitude for the blessings of life we enjoy. In his Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1789, George Washington offered a blueprint as to how the day ought to be remembered.
In part, the proclamation read, “Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th 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; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation…” As our nation’s first president he had a keen understanding of the origins of our blessings.
Washington’s proclamation touched on themes that are worthy of another look. The themes are guiding principles for every generation of leaders. Here are a few observations for consideration.
Thankful leaders are devoted to service. Washington proclaimed the day be “devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of good.” Our highest calling as leaders is to serve.
The most tangible form of service to “that great and glorious Being” is found in service to our fellow man. Frank Warren said, “If you wish to be a leader you will be frustrated for very few people wish to lead. If you aim to be a servant you will never be frustrated.” One of the most defining qualities of a leader is not in who serves him, but in whom he serves.
Thankful leaders are sincere and humble. “…that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks…” Washington said. Leaders are grateful not so much for their position (the weakest form of leadership) but for the blessings that the position offers. With the position comes great responsibility to do good.
John Ruskin wisely said, “I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.’
A leader comfortable in his own skin is sincere and humble. He is not self-absorbed by a sense of self-importance, but understands that it is through humility, sincerity, and service to others that his greatest contributions are made.
Thankful leaders are unifiers. Later in the proclamation Washington said, “And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications…” Like Washington, leaders today understand the significance of what happens when people come together for a common purpose.
Washington understood the struggles of the past and he knew the importance of the future. In order to move forward in unity of purpose he knew it was only possible through unity of heart. Washington called upon Americans to pray to “beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgression," and asked that we be enabled “to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually.”
Thankful leaders unite people around causes greater than self. With all the challenges that we face today, and all that we have to be thankful for, can we do any less?
© 2009 Doug Dickerson