In 1789, George Washington issues the first presidential Thanksgiving proclamation. After Washington's first proclamation, the practice was rarely followed and, between 1815 and 1861, there were no Thanksgiving proclamations issued. In 1863, in an effort to remind citizens of a war-torn nation of their blessings, Abraham Lincoln restarted the practice of issuing an annual Thanksgiving proclamations. Every president since has followed the tradition.
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower penned the following Thanksgiving proclamation. It is both a touching tribute to America's history and a humble expression of appreciation for the blessing of living in the the United States.
"With the completion of the cycle of winter and summer, seedtime and harvest, we come to the traditional time of thanksgiving, when our minds and hearts turn to Almighty God in grateful acknowledgment of His mercies throughout the year.
Let us be grateful that the foundations of freedom in our Nation grow stronger with each passing year, giving hope to fettered peoples that they may walk as free men unafraid; that the yield of our soil and the production of our factories have been abundant, enriching our lives and enabling us to share our bounty with less fortunate ones in other lands; and that the forces of nature are being harnessed for peaceful purposes, bringing limitless possibilities of comfort and happiness both to ourselves and to future generations.
It is also fitting at this season that we should consider God's providence to us throughout our entire history. Let us remember the Pilgrim Fathers who, fleeing from religious oppression, landed on a bleak, forbidding shore and began to carve out what became this great Republic which it is our happy destiny to love and serve. For their foresight, their courage, and their idealism let us give thanks to the Power which has made and preserved us a Nation.
Humbly aware that we are a people greatly blessed, both materially and spiritually, let us pray this year not only in the spirit of thanksgiving but also as suppliants for God's guidance, to the end that we may follow the course of righteousness and be worthy of His favor.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, in accordance with the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as thanksgiving Day, do hereby proclaim Thursday, the twenty-second day of November of this year, as a day of national thanksgiving. On that day let all of us, of whatever creed, foregather in our respective places of worship to give thanks to God and prayerful contemplation to those eternal truths and universal principles of Holy Scripture which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this Nation has achieved. And let us, as the beneficiaries of this greatness, give a good account of our stewardship by helping those in need and by rendering aid, through our religious organizations and by other means, to the ill, the destitute, and the oppressed in foreign lands.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
DONE at the City of Washington this twelfth day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and fifty-six and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-first."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower