(Newt Gingrich) – On the south side of the Rotunda in the United States Capitol Building is a painting titled The Embarkation of the Pilgrims.
The painting depicts the deck of the ship as it departs from Holland for the New World in 1620. Look, and you will see that the pilgrims are praying. A rainbow rises on the left side of the painting, symbolizing hope and divine protection.
The faith in God that the pilgrims exhibited on embarkation from the old world became thankfulness to the same God on disembarkation in the New World.
This is the origin of the day of Thanksgiving we celebrate this week. We give thanks, not merely to one another, or to some undefined spiritual force, but to God.
It doesn’t mean we’re all Christians. It means we’re Americans; lucky citizens of a nation uniquely rooted in faith in our Creator.
To whom will we give thanks today?
To the God whom George Washington, in the first national Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1789, called on all Americans to “unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”
To the God to whom Abraham Lincoln looked in the midst of the Civil War as he made Thanksgiving an annual national holiday in 1863:
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Today we give thanks to the Creator who is the source of our sovereignty.
We pause in gratitude to He who has endowed us with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And just as no government has granted these rights, no government can legitimately take them away.
This is the freedom the pilgrims prayed for, Washington fought for and Lincoln stood for.
As important as it is to give thanks today is to remember, as Americans have before us, to whom we give thanks.
May you and your family have a happy, healthy and blessed Thanksgiving.
(Mr. Gingrich is a former Speaker of the United States House of Represenatives)