Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Thanksgiving; A Special Day to Share with Family and Friends

Thanksgiving; A Special Day to Share with Family and Friends
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Back on the farm, we had a big dining room table that sat against one wall most of the year.

On Thanksgiving, Dad pulled that table out into the middle of the room. Mom covered it with the good tablecloth and set the good dishes. She crowded every square inch of the table’s surface with turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, a real feast for our family to share after we gave thanks for the blessings we had enjoyed during the past year.

I’ll never forget how the aroma of fresh-baked pie and roast turkey wafted through the house. Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I remember the warmth and coziness created by the sight and smells of Mom’s cooking. And I remember how happy I was to have that special day to share with my parents, my two sisters, and sometimes other family members.

Oh, sure, like any other kid, I liked the idea that Thanksgiving was a day when I could eat all the turkey I could hold and follow it up with pumpkin pie and whipped cream. But I also knew the sharing of our time was as important as the meal we ate together.

I don’t recall when I first saw the Norman Rockwell painting called “Freedom from Want.’’ You remember it, I’m sure. It shows a smiling family gathered around a table set with the good China, silverware and crystal. A gray-haired woman, still in her apron, holds a large, perfectly browned turkey on a tray. An older man in suit and tie stands ready to carve the turkey and pass the slices around. It’s one of Rockwell’s more famous works, and with a little imagination, minus the suit and tie, it could be a photograph of my family back on the farm. To me, the Rockwell painting says the food is just the excuse to get the family together to count shared blessings.

Rockwell painted that image in 1943, in the depths of World War II. Two years earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had given an address that talked of the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Rockwell created paintings to represent each of those four freedoms.

Times were tough then. Across the country – across much of the globe – people were sharing the misery and the hard times, making do with what little they had, pulling together. Roosevelt told the American people that the Four Freedoms of which he spoke were “no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.’’

Well, we haven’t attained that vision yet. Men and women of good hearts continue to strive toward it, though. Women and men of courage and commitment continue to serve our country in the armed forces and in so many other ways. And here in South Dakota, we continue to see our people joining the military, volunteering after disasters, helping each other in ways too numerous to count. We see our fellow South Dakotans serving in any way they can, because we are a good people who recognize our blessings and who want to share our bounty with those less fortunate.

Linda and I wish all of you a Thanksgiving free from want and rich with the blessings of family and friends.

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