A Thanksgiving Message From Barack Obama


“Nearly 150 years ago, in one of the darkest years of our nation’s history, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving,” Obama said. “America was split by Civil War. But Lincoln said in his first Thanksgiving decree that difficult times made it even more appropriate for our blessings to be — and I quote — ‘gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.’

“This week, the American people came together with families and friends to carry on this distinctly American tradition. We gave thanks for loved ones and for our lasting pride in our communities and our country. We took comfort in good memories while looking forward to the promise of change.

“But this Thanksgiving also takes place at a time of great trial for our people.

“Across the country, there were empty seats at the table, as brave Americans continue to serve in harm’s way from the mountains of Afghanistan to the deserts of Iraq. We honor and give thanks for their sacrifice, and stand by the families who endure their absence with such dignity and resolve.

“At home, we face an economic crisis of historic proportions. More and more Americans are worried about losing a job or making their mortgage payment. Workers are wondering if next month’s paycheck will pay next month’s bills. Retirees are watching their savings disappear, and students are struggling with the cost of tuition.

“It’s going to take bold and immediate action to confront this crisis. That’s why I’m committed to forging a new beginning from the moment I take office as President of the United States. Earlier this week, I announced my economic team. This talented and dedicated group is already hard at work crafting an Economic Recovery Plan that will create or save 2.5 million new jobs, while making the investments we need to fuel long-term economic growth and stability.

“But this Thanksgiving, we are reminded that the renewal of our economy won’t come from policies and plans alone — it will take the hard work, innovation, service, and strength of the American people.

“I have seen this strength firsthand over many months — in workers who are ready to power new industries, and farmers and scientists who can tap new sources of energy; in teachers who stay late after school, and parents who put in that extra hour reading to their kids; in young Americans enlisting in a time of war, seniors who volunteer their time, and service programs that bring hope to the hopeless.

“It is a testament to our national character that so many Americans took time out this Thanksgiving to help feed the hungry and care for the needy. On Wednesday, I visited a food bank at Saint Columbanus Parish in Chicago. There — as in so many communities across America — folks pitched in time and resources to give a lift to their neighbors in need. It is this spirit that binds us together as one American family — the belief that we rise and fall as one people; that we want that American Dream not just for ourselves, but for each other.

“That’s the spirit we must summon as we make a new beginning for our nation. Times are tough. There are difficult months ahead. But we can renew our nation the same way that we have in the many years since Lincoln’s first Thanksgiving: by coming together to overcome adversity; by reaching for — and working for — new horizons of opportunity for all Americans.

“So this weekend — with one heart, and one voice, the American people can give thanks that a new and brighter day is yet to come.”

Voting For The Smart One

In 2004 John Kerry was thought to be too much of an elitist for many voters, plus he went wind surfing. Instead many voted for a candidate who was lacking in intellectual curiosity and understanding of the details of policy.

During both the primaries and the general election campaigns this year many claimed that Barack Obama was an elitist as they supported other candidates. Suddenly, with the current economic crisis, more people are realizing that maybe we do need a member of an elite to be president. Voting based upon who you would prefer to have a beer with has fortunately fallen out of favor. There is value in having a president who is intelligent, understands the issues, and has the intellectual curiosity to evaluate problems in depth.

A majority of voters realized this by election day and elected Barack Obama by the largest margin of any non-incumbent since Eisenhower won in 1952. The pundits are also catching on to this. Today David Broder writes that this is a Good Time For a Brainy President.

Broder writes that for years he has “been arguing that there are traits much more important to the success of a president than brainpower. Self-confidence, curiosity, an eye for talent, the ability to communicate, a temperament that invites collaboration — all these and more rank higher on the list of desirable presidential traits.” This year he is viewing it differently:

I am not ready to abandon that view. But I am struck by how lucky this country is, at the moment, that the president-elect is a super-smart person like Barack Obama.

With each passing day, it becomes more evident that even the smartest and most experienced managers of the American economy are struggling to understand — and fix — what has gone wrong in our markets.

I attempt to follow the discussion in newspapers and on Jim Lehrer’s “NewsHour” and other deeply serious television programs about the latest moves by the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury — and I am stumped.

The sums are so staggering, the vocabulary so unfamiliar, the experience so uninformative that I have not a clue whether Bernanke, Paulson and Co. are on top of the situation or are inadvertently making things worse.

That’s an embarrassing admission. I get paid to cover the government, and this is by far the most important challenge facing Washington. But I am utterly dependent on others to decipher the clues that may unravel these mysteries.

Obama is not similarly handicapped. Even in the emotional maelstrom of his election victory, and even with the pressures of assembling his administration, everything points to his managing to focus on the policy choices looming in the economic field.

I have talked to two people on the fringe of the transition team — both members of Congress with major responsibilities in the economic area. Both have been asked for input by Obama, and both say that the quality of his questions — and his follow-ups — were a measure of the depth of his knowledge of the situation.

After the 2004 election I got a badge which says, “Don’t Blame Me–I Voted for the Smart One.” I put it up near a bumper sticker which says, “My Dog is Smarter Than Your President.” Fortunately there is no need for either message after this year’s election.