As great as the pain was in 1963, it was incomparable to the Civil War, which claimed the lives of 650,000 to 850,000 young Americans — Union and Confederate alike.
Nevertheless, at the height of that war, President Lincoln found much to be thankful for.
"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People," Lincoln wrote.
"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."
This year, President Obama issued his proclamation to a nation divided in the debate over the proper role of government in the daily lives of a free people, but he eschewed politics to remind Americans of what matters most.
"This Thanksgiving Day, let us forge deeper connections with our loved ones," Obama wrote. "Let us extend our gratitude and our compassion. And let us lift each other up and recognize, in the oldest spirit of this tradition, that we rise or fall as one Nation, under God."
The Pilgrims and the people of Jamestown were thankful for the opportunity our Creator provided in a new continent.
Most Americans today have so much more to be thankful for than those early settlers.
Let's all remember to show gratitude.