Presidential Radio Address - 24 November 2007
Good morning. This week our Nation celebrated Thanksgiving. American families and friends gathered together to express gratitude for all that we have been given. We give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy. We give thanks for the loved ones who enrich our lives. And we give thanks for the many gifts that come from this prosperous land. Thanksgiving is a time when we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come not from the hand of man, but from Almighty God.
Earlier this week, I visited Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. The story of this historic setting goes back nearly four centuries to another day of thanks. In 1619, a band of 38 settlers departed Bristol, England for Berkeley. At the end of their long voyage, the men reviewed their orders from home. The orders said, quote, "The day of our ship's arrival ... shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God." In response, the men fell to their knees in prayer. And with this humble act of faith, the settlers celebrated their first Thanksgiving in the New World.
Berkeley's settlers remind us that giving thanks has been an American tradition from the beginning. At this time of year, we also remember the Pilgrims at Plymouth, who gave thanks after their first harvest in New England. We remember George Washington, who led his men in thanksgiving during the American Revolution. We remember Abraham Lincoln, who revived the Thanksgiving tradition in the midst of a terrible civil war.
Throughout our history, Americans have always taken time to give thanks for all those whose sacrifices protect and strengthen our Nation. We continue that tradition today -- and we give thanks for a new generation of patriots who are defending our liberty around the world. We are grateful to all our men and women in uniform who are spending this holiday weekend far from their families. We keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And we especially remember those who have given their lives in our Nation's defense.
One of these brave Americans was Lieutenant Michael Murphy. In June 2005, this officer gave his life in defense of his fellow Navy SEALs. Michael was conducting surveillance on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan, when his four-man SEAL team was surrounded by a much larger enemy force. Their only escape was down the side of the mountain. The SEALs launched a valiant counterattack while cascading from cliff to cliff. But as the enemy closed in, Michael recognized that the survival of his men depended on calling back to base for reinforcements.
With complete disregard for his own life, Michael Murphy moved into a clearing where he could get a signal. As he made the call, Michael fell under heavy fire. Though severely wounded, he said "thank you" before signing off, and returned to the fight. His heroism cost him his life -- and earned him our Nation's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. This weekend, we give thanks for the blessings of young Americans like Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who risk their own lives to keep us safe.
We're also blessed by the many other Americans who serve a cause larger than themselves. Each day our Nation's police and firefighters and emergency responders and faith-based and community volunteers dedicate their time to serving others. While we were enjoying our Thanksgiving turkeys, tens of thousands of these men and women were on the job -- keeping their fellow citizens safe and bringing hope and compassion to our brothers and sisters in need. And their sacrifice reminds us that the true strength of our Nation is the goodness and decency of our people.
Since America's first Thanksgiving, we have changed in many ways. Our population has grown. Our people have prospered. And we have become a great beacon of hope and freedom for millions around the world. Despite these changes, the source of all our blessings remains the same. We are grateful to the Author of Life who blessed our Nation's first days, who strengthened America in times of trial and war, and who watches over us today.
Thank you for listening.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).