American Thanksgiving


Educators, seeking enriching anecdotes to help their students understand the historical context of the American Thanksgiving traditions, will enjoy the excerpt from Melanie Kirkpatrick’s speech, “Thanksgiving and America”, published in Hillsdale College’s, Imprimis. 

While the holiday itself has passed for this year and you are likely far beyond the Pilgrims in the semester of American History, this speech would be a great read-aloud or supplemental literacy enrichment text. It is intelligent and insightful, yet quite readable and accessible.

I especially enjoyed the acknowledgement of Sarah Hale’s singular dedication to this cause as well as the uproar caused by FDR when he moved the date!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was Benjamin Franklin’s description of Thanksgiving?
  2. What were three of the major controversies surrounding Thanksgiving?
  3. What role did Sarah Hale have in establishing the Thanksgiving tradition?
  4. What were the early Thanksgiving celebrations about?
  5. Which colony established the first specific date for the holiday?
  6. What were two of the main objections voiced regarding the holiday in 1789?
  7. What were two of Washington’s key solutions to establish this as an inclusive holiday?
  8. What does Ms. Kirkpatrick mean by, “Shades of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sit at every American’s Thanksgiving table…?”
  9.  What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”


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