Presidential Thanksgiving Message's Pernicious Premise

In the first Thanksgiving address given by an American president, George Washington encouraged his fellow citizens in 1789 to join him in "acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."  Clearly demonstrating an equal grasp on the gravity and meaning of such an occasion, current U.S. President Barack Obama followed in Washington's footsteps by calling this generation of Americans to a day of "eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we are."  Quick, grab a tablet of stone and chisel in that pellet of eternal insight before it escapes our mortal consciousness.

Perhaps the comparison is unfair given that Obama did issue a written statement that thanked God for "the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives." Nonetheless, conservative critics pounced, observing that the same president who never misses the opportunity to host an Iftar dinner and extemporaneously proclaim the great benevolence of the God of Islam just totally blanks on the magnanimity of the Judeo-Christian God amidst the very holiday our people have historically set aside to honor Him for His blessings. 

Fox News columnist Todd Starnes fired the first volley, noting that the president's "remarks were void of any religious references although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God."  From there a bevy of right-leaning commentators attacked the president for his sin of omission.  Might I humbly suggest that a more meaningful critique of the president's speech should focus less on what he didn't say, and more on what he did?

To posit, as President Obama did, that the great prosperity of the United States is the consequence of "luck" is as controversial and radical as anything this president has said during his time in the national spotlight.  Yes, as controversial as proclaiming that Israel should go back to its pre-1967 boundaries.  Yes, as radical as suggesting that knowing whether or not to defend the unalienable right to life was above his pay grade.

Because in a very real way, this comment puts the entire presidency of Barack Obama into context.  It starts making sense out of the muddled picture we have had of Obama and piecing together the fragments of a larger worldview that has been shadowed by the meaningless media caricatures of the man.

Taken by itself, crediting luck as the source of American greatness could perhaps be excused as a slip of the tongue or a lazy retreat behind a tired rhetorical cliché.  But when placed in context and added to other previously isolated statements to make a combined symphony of thought, it explains why the president seems so uncomfortable and confused when asked about American exceptionalism.  It explains why he obstinately omits reference to the Creator God as the source of man's rights when quoting from the American Declaration of Independence.  It explains why he frequently seems ashamed of American preeminence, feeling obligated to bow before foreign leaders or apologize profusely for our national sins -- real or imagined.  It explains both a foreign and a domestic policy designed to relegate America to the role of world participant rather than world leader.

President Obama misunderstands the significance of American greatness because he misappropriates its foundational source.  In his secular socialist worldview, America's riches were not the reward from One whom Abraham Lincoln called the "beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."  They were not the result of a national obedience to the Natural Lawgiver, nor the consequence of a national commitment to conform to the timeless truths of His moral order.

No, to the man who is now the face of the free world, they were nothing more than the byproduct of an advantageous role of the civilizational dice.  If a transcendent being was involved, it was only to spin the globe blindfolded and un-ceremonially plop its finger down randomly on the United States, instigating a flood of prosperity that was no more purposeful than it was deserved.

That is why, in Obama's mind, there is nothing more exceptional about America than Britain or Greece, why we have no right to admonish the human rights atrocities occurring with impunity in China, why America should presume to hold no position of moral superiority in our dealings with foreign thugs and tyrannies, why our time is better spent apologizing for our arrogance than recommitting ourselves to the glorious truths of our founding.  And it's why food and football are just as likely to cross his lips on Thanksgiving as is the One to Whom we have, at the direction of presidents far greater than Barack Obama, historically rendered thanks.

If anything, this unfortunate episode reminds us of why Thanksgiving 2012 will offer a brand new reason for national gratitude.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana.  E-mail, visit, or like him on Facebook.