George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation Made 18 References to God; Obama's, 4

By Michael W. Chapman | November 26, 2012 | 1:55 PM EST

President Barack Obama in front of a portrait of the first president, George Washington. (AP)

( – In the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, President George Washington repeatedly acknowledged “Almighty God” and called upon Americans to devote the day in “service of that great and glorious Being,” the “beneficent Author” of all good. In his Proclamation for Thanksgiving 2012, President Barack Obama references “God” marginally and then encourages Americans “to join together” in places like “community centers” and “share our bounty with others.”

The two proclamations contrast markedly, with Washington referencing God 18 times while Obama references God 4 times.

Washington’s proclamation was issued on Oct. 3, 1789, and it is replete with acknowledgment of God in all aspects of life. For example, it partly reads as follows:

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor ….

“…acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God ….

“ … [Thanksgiving day is] 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 ….

“…for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war ….

“…for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“ … that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions ….

“…to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord ….

“…To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue … and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

In President Obama’s proclamation, released on Nov. 20, the president proclaims Nov. 22, 2012 as a National Day of thanksgiving and then says, “I encourage the people of the United States to join together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.”

Earlier in the proclamation, Obama states that Thanksgiving  “day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives.”

He also mentions the pilgrims at Plymouth Colony and how they “enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe -- a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before.”

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe. (Public Domain)

Obama then notes President Washington  and how “he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come.” (In Washington’s proclamation, the word “Creator” is not used.)

President Obama then mentions Abraham Lincoln, the civil war, and the shared American bond to preserve “one Nation,” and adds, “Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.”

The president also calls for giving thanks to the U.S. military – “We honor their service and sacrifice” – and to those Americans “who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay.”

“On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country,” states Obama. “Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.”

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Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman