Over 100 years ago, my great-great grandmother homesteaded 23 miles east of Conrad and that’s how my family made it to Montana. As a fifth-generation Montanan, I didn’t have to choose Montana - Montana chose me. And I’ll be forever thankful for that.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that belongs exclusively to Americans. As far back as 1621, we have gathered with our families, friends and neighbors to thank God for all that He has given us. But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise,” that we celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
Oftentimes I’ll read Lincoln’s proclamation before my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Lincoln speaks of the abundance of the fields, the peace with foreign nations and the health of a growing population despite being in the midst of a Civil War. He writes, “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. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” And we have celebrated Thanksgiving ever since.
The Golden Triangle reminds us of the incredible wealth we have in Montana’s agricultural resources. Glacier National Park reminds us of the amazing beauty that surrounds us in Big Sky Country. And this year’s wildfires remind us of those who risk it all to protect our communities.
During his Thanksgiving Day Address in 1985, President Ronald Reagan reminded us that as Americans, one of our greatest blessings is something we cannot see or touch. He said, “The Statue of Liberty and this wonderful holiday called Thanksgiving go together naturally because, although as Americans we have many things for which to be thankful, none is more important than our liberty.” And I believe he was right.
With a rogue regime in North Korea, radical Islamic terrorists, and Russia showing aggression in Eastern Europe, we must recognize the men and women who are sacrificing to protect this liberty Reagan spoke of. Many of our service members are overseas right now, missing Thanksgiving dinner with their family so we can sit around a table with ours. Their sacrifices to defend our freedoms are what make America the greatest nation on earth.
President Reagan ended his 1985 address with a challenge: “As a measure of our gratitude, let us rededicate ourselves to the preservation of this, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” As we sit around our Thanksgiving tables, surrounded by a spread of turkey with all the fixings and pumpkin pies, may we recommit ourselves to that American liberty and to each other – because through the highs and lows, Montanans pull together – and that’s how we continue to keep Montana the Last Best Place.
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. It is an honor to serve as your U.S. Senator. Cindy and I are thankful to call Montana home.
Steve Daines represents Montana in the U.S. Senate.