2020 has been a tough year. The global pandemic has affected all of us, in one way or another. We have lost loved ones. We have missed funerals and weddings, birthdays and births, and now, perhaps, Thanksgiving too. And we have missed each other – our family, our friends, our co-workers.
But it’s in the toughest moments that we find we have the most to be grateful for. As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth said earlier this year: “In testing times, we often observe that the best of the human spirit comes to the fore.” That is what the Thanksgiving story is all about. When they sat down at the table together, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag had both experienced genuine hardship. But they also experienced genuine partnership, partnership that was the key to their very survival.
As President Trump puts it: “Those who survived remained unwavering in their faith and foresight of a future rich with liberty and freedom. Through God’s divine providence, a meaningful relationship was forged with the Wampanoag Tribe, and through their unwavering resolve and resilience, the Pilgrims enjoyed a bountiful harvest the following year. The celebration of this harvest saw Pilgrims and Wampanoag seated together at the table of friendship and unity. That first Thanksgiving provided an enduring symbol of gratitude that is uniquely sewn into the fabric of our American spirit.”
That first Thanksgiving meal was about being grateful for each other and the immense power we have – in each other. Together, we can do anything. We can endure any hardship, overcome any adversity and achieve any mission. That is the spirit of Thanksgiving, and it is the spirit of America. It is also the very same spirit I have seen every single day this year, both here in the UK, and back home.
Despite all the hardships 2020 has brought, together, through adversity, we all figured out a way forward. Moms and Dads found new ways to balance caring for their kids and providing for their families through lockdown. Teachers scaled new heights of creativity to keep their students engaged and learning online. Care workers left their own families to go and look after others’. Businesses and factory workers adapted their production overnight to support hospitals. Delivery drivers and truck drivers and supermarket workers put in extra shifts to keep us supplied. Churches and synagogues and mosques found new ways to bring congregations together and stop people feeling isolated.
Everywhere I’ve looked, I have seen people stepping up, innovating, and finding a way forward. And most often, they’ve kept a smile on their faces as they’ve done it. To paraphrase Vera Lynn, whom we sadly lost earlier this year, what we have seen this year is that people keep smiling through, just like they always do.
It’s inspiring to see that spirit, that Thanksgiving spirit, in the people around us. We encourage each other, we build each other up and we face adversity with the faith, hope and confidence that we will get through this hardship, as we always have done, together. It is the American way, it is the British way, and it is how, together, we will pave the way to brighter days ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson
The November 2020 Thanksgiving Day message from Ambassador Johnson was published on the November 23, 2002 edition of The American.