Pa Kettle sits at the crowded family table, removes his hat, looks up to Heaven and says, “Much obliged, Lord.” A classic scene from the 1957 film, The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm. In my younger years, I was always fond of “For this plate of food, we thank the Holy Dude.” Now with more than a dash of salt in my hair and a family of my own, Thanksgiving toasts have more significance because I know the difference between turkeys gone wild and gone for Wild Turkey. Fortunately, we can find wisdom and brevity in our history to remind us how to properly pay our respects.

After reaffirming Thanksgiving Day in 1863, President Lincoln was reported to have quoted one of his favorite authors, Robert Burns, and offered the following toast: “Dare to be honest and fear no labor.” Sobering words said in the midst of the Civil War and on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Freedom From Want
A month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt rallied the nation in a 1941 Congressional speech and set Norman Rockwell to illustrate the four basic freedoms: “…every person is entitled to the freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.” Rockwell’s painting, The Freedom from Want, also known as Thanksgiving Dinner, shows the connection to family and returning to old values.

Goals were set forth by President Kennedy during a Veterans’ Day ceremony in 1963: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

This annual meal-time moment is a key opportunity to share from the heart and show appreciation from kin to God. So before offering your Thanksgiving toast this year and every year thereafter, take a few minutes and reflect. What and who do you appreciate? Tell them and help put the thanks back into Thanksgiving.

From my book Tasteful Toasts I offer a universal blessing which can be used on Thanksgiving Day or any meal time:

I've been asked by our gracious host
To raise my glass and offer a toast
Traveling from North, South, West or East
We partake in this bountiful feast
Whether surrounded by family or friend
We thank the Lord and say Amen

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