Pragmatic idealism involves the art of ideological persuasion. The art of ideological persuasion involves selection and timing. The issue which electrifies today may not tomorrow. The issue which electrifies one part of a potentially broader ideological grouping may have little or no effect on another.
American Conservatives, generally, care passionately about issues; care passionately about heritage: About traditional values and historic achievement. Unfortunately, as devotees to a highly individualistic culture, we are often very far apart as to what issues, what values and what achievements we should emphasize. And the pragmatists on the Left exploit our divisions in every way that they can.
Yet there is a broad consensus that America has lost touch with its roots; that the values being taught in American public schools, today, do not reflect the America we believe in; do not reflect the historic, economic, physical and spiritual realities on which our system and values are premised. To some, the remedy is in a more accurate history and in the social sciences of reality rather than the mythology of a Collectivist, secular humanist, Left. To others, the answer lies more in the restoration of traditional religious faith and God-centered values.
Unfortunately for these latter, the activist Courts have all but eliminated religious expression from public education. It is not what the Constitution calls for--not what Jefferson, or any early American leader called for;--but it seems to be required by the same warped jurisprudence which legalized abortion, took over local education and elections, and has now decreed an end to traditional sex-roles. In addition, many Conservatives who would like to reinstate traditional God-fearing values in the public schools, are unable to agree as to whom should define those values.
But we are not helpless. We suggest a project, here, to which most Conservatives--of all schools of Conservative thought--can subscribe; a project which, if challenged, would place our foes in a very awkward light indeed.
Immediately following this note is George Washington's original (October 3, 1789) Proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day under our new Federal Union; a Union brought into being with his Inauguration, that year. While it is an act of State--an historic secular document;-- it reads as the heartfelt, humble and grateful prayer of a people Blessed as few others; a Prayer written by the Father of American Independence. No possible suggestion of Sectarian bias; no possible suggestion of irrelevance to the annual Thanksgiving Day, still observed by every public school in America, can be made! To deny children access to this prayer, is to deny them access to their history, their heritage. To claim that it violates a separation of Church and State would be ridiculous. But for the man who offered it, we would still have a State Church in America--the Church of England.
The project then is wonderfully simple: To get as many public school systems as possible, to read this Proclamation in school assemblies or over the public address systems the day before the Thanksgiving Holiday, each year--starting in 1999, the 210th anniversary;--and then to give each child a copy to take home to study and, hopefully, to share with his family over that Holiday. Dare anyone to suggest that we cannot require children to learn the history of a tradition that they would be celebrating at the very moment of the lesson?!
The benefit is not merely as a first step in the process of restoring values in the class room, in turning back the tide of Judicial intervention--something almost all Conservatives recognize as necessary. The simple, grateful, humble faith of the Fathers is truly inspirational. It may not rub off on all; it will on some. And those who imbibe the reverence that sustained Washington, will be better men and women all the days of their lives.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to "recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for His kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.