Friday, January 22, 2016

Election 2016: New York v New York v New York (?)

LARRY KING: This is one tough town, is it not.
BOB BENNETT: New York is a tough town, Larry. This is a mean town.
--Talking about Washington, DC in Anything Goes!: What I've Learned from Pundits, Politicians, and Presidents

The moment of truth in the January 15, 2016 Republican Presidential Debate on Fox Business Channel came in response to a question from Maria Bartiromo, who asked Texas Senator Ted Cruz to explain his charge that Donald Trump "embodies New York values." Cruz responded:

CRUZ: friend Donald has taken to...playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, and I was asked what I thought of that. And I said, “well, if he wanted to play a song, maybe he could play, ‘New York, New York’?” And — and — you know, the concept of New York values is not that complicated to figure out.

In returning fire, Trump's passionate defense of New York's response to 9/11 gained him sympathetic press coverage, and in my opinion, won him the Republican nomination:

TRUMP: So conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley and others, just so you understand. 


And just so — if I could, because he insulted a lot of people. I’ve had more calls on that statement that Ted made — New York is a great place. It’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people.

When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two one hundred...


... you had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed, and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup, probably in the history of doing this, and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air. And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.


But the issue of New York raised by Cruz in what looked like a cheap and divisive attempt to play on regional prejudices, is far more significant than a debate over the definition of conservatism.  It  illuminated, like lightning, the contested terrain of the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

For if Election 2008 was about the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Era which resulted in America's first African-American President to fulfill the dream of racial equality; then Election 2016 is about unfinished business of 9/11, and will result in the election of a New Yorker who can finally fully avenge the attack on the Twin Towers by Islamic Fundamentalism--an attack which occurred under a Texan President for whom Ted Cruz worked.

And that means at the very least that it looks like the next President of the United States will be from New York. 

As it so happens, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were born in New York City and so there can be no question of their New York bona fides. Sanders grew up in Brooklyn, Trump in Queens.

Interestingly, although born in Chicago and a Washington DC homeowner,  thus not a "natural born New Yorker," Hillary Clinton claims she lives in New York and served one term as Senator. At this point the former First Lady is a legal resident of the state, and her daughter and granddaughter live in New York City. Therefore, she is likely the exception that proves the rule.

Personal styles distinguish Sanders and Trump from Hillary, more than sex differences. 

Both Sanders and Trump are "Authentic New York Style."  What's more, both Sanders and Trump are "Old School." They talk like New York cab drivers and construction workers used to talk--outer borough "dese, dem and dose." If Donald Trump is Archie Bunker, then Sanders is Meathead--they could live together under one roof, dependent upon one another, although resentfully. They may argue, they may fight, but they are family.

In addition, Sanders and Trump remind Americans of how New Yorkers acted before 9/11. (Since 9/11, New Yorkers have seemed more subdued, in my opinion). Both led successful careers as, respectively, brash political and business leaders who were also  abrasive, opinionated, and outspoken New Yorkers. Both Sanders and Trump have had multiple marriages, and Sanders additionally has a love child.

It is obvious that Sanders and Trump lack what contemporary pundits call a "filter." They are both politically incorrect, coming at their deviationism from divergent origins: Sanders because he does not disguise his socialism; Trump because he does not disguise his patriotism. Yet, both socialism and nationalism are incompatible with Islamic Fundamentalism. 

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton mere's existence as a public figure reminds Americans of politically correct Establishment post-9/11 discourse and defeatism. As First Lady, she was part of a Clinton administration which failed to prevent the 1993 Al Qaeda World Trade Center attack or defeat Bin Laden. Later, as both Senator and Secretary of State she likewise failed to defeat Islamic Fundamentalism. Indeed, she had a close personal staffer with ties to the same Muslim Brotherhood that spawned Al Qaeda, ISIS, HAMAS and an alphabet soup of terror groups around the world.

Indeed, unlike Sanders and Trump, who have been successful their entire careers, Hillary Clinton has not--she failed as First Lady, by allowing scandal to mar the dignity of the Presidency; she failed as Senator to pass meaningful legislation; and she failed as Secretary of State to preserve global peace and stability or protect the nation. Whether or not she is indicted as a criminal is a secondary to her record in public service--in positions which apparently depended entirely upon "standing by her man," an ironic position for a purported feminist dedicated to women's liberation. Her only unique campaign weapon at this point is that she is a woman--which may become a sword to be used against her by two cranky old men from New York City.

Bottom line: New York has already won Election 2016. 

The remaining question is who will serve as New York's champion in the coming administration, in order to avenge the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001: Brooklyn's Bernie Sanders, Queens's Donald Trump...or Hillary Clinton?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

A Discourse on "Critical Thinking"

On a Christmas vacation road trip, I had a chance to listen to the audiobook of Russell Shorto's informative Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason.

Descartes' Bones is a historical detective story which traces the missing skull and bones of the father of philosophical rationalism, scientific method and the Enlightenment. In Shorto's account, Descartes is a secular saint whose relics became objects of devotion for the French, the Swedes (Queen Christina was an admirer), the Catholic Church as well as modern Science (his skull is in the anthropological collection of the Musée de l'Homme in Paris).

Descartes was famous for his declaration: "Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am). This became the basis of both metaphysical skepticism, Cartesian dualism, and the unity of scientific knowledge that led to the Age of Reason, the American and French Revolutions, and the modern world.  Quote:

Thus, all Philosophy is like a tree, of which Metaphysics is the root, Physics the trunk, and all the other sciences the branches that grow out of this trunk, which are reduced to three principals, namely, Medicine, Mechanics, and Ethics. By the science of Morals, I understand the highest and most perfect which, presupposing an entire knowledge of the other sciences, is the last degree of wisdom.

In Shorto's view, today's way of life in America and Europe likewise grows like a tree from Descartes's Method, and the Enlightenment undergirds Western Civilization under challenge from Islamic Fundamentalism. The story of Descartes' bones is intended to remind us of the roots of our way of thinking.  The bones were swept up in the conflicts of the era. Likewise,  during his lifetime Descartes had fled France and Holland to die in Sweden, because of hostility to his ideas from Catholic clerics.

Shorto concludes his tale with an interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch Somali Member of Parliament who fled Holland for the United States under threat of death after the murder of her artistic collaborator Theo van Gogh, following release of their 2004 anti-Fundamentalist film, Submission

For Descartes, thinking was enough to bring about a revolution. The noun sufficed, without adjectival assistance (although Descartes did have a Method).

Today, it appears, not so much. Currently, thinking appears to have been replaced by so-called "Critical Thinking." At least as taught in schools, colleges, universities, as well as in business around the world. In England, there are GCE exams (A-levels) H052 and H452 in Critical Thinking--but not in Thinking. According to the website:

Critical Thinking is a skills-based rather than content-based A Level. It develops the ability to interpret, analyse and evaluate ideas and arguments and can support thinking skills in all subject areas, from arts and humanities to sciences.

On its face, it seems that there would be little room for objection to the Cambridge exam description, (except for the typo):

The Cambridge Assessment definition of Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking is the analytical thinking which underlies all rational discourse and enquiry. It is characterised by a meticulous and rigorous approach.
As and (sic) academic discipline, it is unique in that it explicitly focuses on the processes involved in being rational.
These processes include:
  • analysing arguments
  • judging the relevance and significance of information
  • evaluating claims, inferences, arguments and explanations
  • constructing clear and coherent arguments
  • forming well-reasoned judgements and decisions.
Being rational also requires an open-minded yet critical approach to one’s own thinking as well as that of others.

The study of critical thinking will equip candidates with reasoning skills to use in life, work and further academic study. It provides opportunities for candidates to think deeply, and in a structured way, about issues that are key to participating in society, e.g. ethical questions, cultural issues and issues of personal responsibility. It enables them to make reasoned decisions that are based on evidence and argument rather than assumption and prejudice.

The Advanced Subsidiary GCE specification gives an introduction to the concepts, principles and techniques that underlie critical thinking and expands their application to a range of contexts. It provides a discrete package of material, providing those candidates who do not wish to progress to A2 with a knowledge and understanding of critical thinking that is applicable to the study of a range of academic and vocational subjects.

The A2 part of the Advanced GCE specification incorporates greater depth of understanding, analysis and evaluation across a range of wider and more challenging contexts. It provides a foundation for further study of academic and vocational subjects, as well as forming part of a general education, or an enrichment programme, at Advanced Level. Candidates will find critical thinking skills of great benefit in preparing for a wide range of careers, including the fields of law, academic research (e.g. in the disciplines of science, arts and humanities), social science, journalism, medicine, business, accounting and engineering

The official definition echoes the promotion of "Critical Thinking" as a once-upon-a-time classically liberal response to the rise of Fascism and Stalinism during World War II, drawing upon progressive educational ideas of John Dewey. 

In this sense,  Edward Maynard Glaser's 1941 publication, An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking, was seminal.  Obviously, the issue at the time was how to develop fair-minded and independent thinkers who would not fall under the sway of authoritarian or totalitarian ideologies sweeping the globe. 

Education in "Critical Thinking" was therefore intended as a continuation of the Enlightenment, of the liberal arts as artes liberales--arts worthy of free people; that is, knowledge needed to participate in civic other words: Civilization. 

However, while many lay persons may still understand "Critical Thinking" in these traditional terms, and some tests used by business, like the Glaser-Watson instrument, concentrate on fairly objective problem-solving techniques; by the 1960s, changes in the social sciences had begun to shift the tectonic plates of education. 

Robert H. Ennis's 1962 article, A Concept of Critical Thinking, published in the Harvard Educational Review, was a little more complicated and indeed mystifying:

The author has attempted to fill a gap which he perceives to exist in the literature on thinking. He has identified twelve aspects of critical thinking (construed as ‘the correct assessing of statements’) and elaborated a system of criteria to be applied in it. The relevance of his enquiry for the schools is implied in the title and is close to the author's attention throughout the article. 

These efforts corresponded with the introduction of so-called "New Math," SRA Readers, and other attempts to replace traditional subjects with more scientific and technologically advanced skill-sets. Thinking had been narrowed to "critical thinking," that is, "the correct assessing of statements." It was a way of avoiding ideological conflicts in what Daniel Bell had asserted was a post-ideological age (conveniently, a way to avoid dealing with the Red Menace of the the McCarthy Era). Where "Critical Thinking" had once been seen a bulwark of freedom, it now would become a value-free technique.

Bad enough on its face, rather like the replacement of belle lettres with "New Criticism," or philosophical concerns about the "Good Life" with dry British Analytic, Ordinary Language Philosophy...but that was not the end of the story.

The next stage was transformation of the meaning of the word "critical." Instead of referring to  criticism of ideas and arguments, the new "Critical Thinkers" would criticize social classes--they would apply Marxist critique, based upon a form of "Critical Theory" employed by Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, and Herbert Marcuse, among others. 

As Stephen Brookfield concludes in The Praeger Handbook of Education and Psychology, "how the term critical is used inevitably reflects the ideology and worldview of the user." He goes on to explain that analytic approaches merely attempt to explain the world--while critical approaches evaluate "how they maintain an unjust status quo." Criticism is re-defined in class terms as "critical distancing from, and then oppositional engagement with, the dominant culture."  That is to say: 

As an educational activity ideology critique focuses on an awareness of how capitalism shapes social relations and imposes--often without our knowledge--belief systems and assumptions that justify and maintain political and economic inequity. Conceptualizing critical thinking within this tradition unites cognition with political consciousness to define it as the ability to recognize and challenge oppressive practices. When informed by ideology critique one could argue that a prime indicator of critical thinking would be skepticism of the very standardized critical thinking tests generally used to assess it!

In other worlds, the liberal anti-authoritarian concept of critical thinking developed to fight Fascism has been transformed into an anti-liberal concept employed to fight classical Liberalism. "Critical Thinking" had turned Thinking on its head--the term transformed into tool employed to discredit rational thought and logical analysis...a precursor to what eventually became known as "Political Correctness."

One simple solution would to be to return to traditional conceptions of Thinking, to teach students how to think for themselves and express their own ideas in writing, and thereby return education to the study of classical liberal arts, artes liberales for a free people; focusing the curriculum on liberating subjects based upon Enlightenment principles that inspired Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza.

In conclusion: "Critical Thinking" as a euphemism for Marxist indoctrination has no place in the school curricula of a free society.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mr. Steyn Goes To Washington

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks to witness Mark Steyn at Tuesday's Hearing on Climate Change
held by the Senate Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee

Writer Mark Steyn had a Mr Smith Goes to Washington afternoon last Tuesday, when he testified in the Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee's magnificently ornate Senate Russell Office Building Hearing Room 253 in a hearing chaired by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) titled "Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over Human Impact on Earth's Climate".  

In a post on SteynOnline entitled Markey Mark, Steyn was bitter about his confrontation with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) as an expert witness, condemning the U.S. Senate as an institution--despite beating the odds by getting a Senator to answer a question from a witness, a very unusual if not unprecedented occurrence. But that very colloquy shone a spotlight on just how contentious and treacherous the issue of climate change has become--global warming revealed as a political "hot potato."

Intended to showcase climate data analysis from dissenting scientists, just as the COP-21 meetings also known as the Paris Climate Conference were taking place, the afternoon's hearing began  dramatically, when a Greenpeace activist approached noted Princeton physics professor Dr. William Happer for an ambush interview captured on video posted to YouTube:

Apparently there had been a protest rally prior to the hearing, objecting to allowing the dissidents to testify in the first place. So, perhaps this confrontation may have been designed to mau-mau a witness--Dr. Happer had, Wikipedia reported, been "stung" by Greenpeace before. In any case, nerves were obviously raw from the get-go, and there didn't appear to be much staff support for Dr. Happer during the ugly incident.

Seated a few rows behind the confrontation, I noticed a young man standing oddly, pressing his chest firmly against Steyn's. They looked like two wildebeest in a National Geographic nature documentary. The straining duo were soon separated by a policewoman. After watching the video, it turned out that Steyn had been trying to prevent fisticuffs, interposing his person between the outraged witness and his Javert. Steyn was acting as bodyguard. 

It seemed odd that that what ought to have been a cold-blooded discussion of scientific data points could produce so much heat. Who could have guessed that looking at temperature charts and graphs could set blood boiling?

In any case, following this brief clash, the hearing commenced with opening statements from Senators in attendance. 

Immediately, another phenomenon was obvious. 

Apparently, all the Democratic subcommittee members were present and accounted for: Senator Tom Udall, (D-NM), the Ranking Member; Senator Ed Markey (D-MA); Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ); Senator Gary Peters (D-MI); Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Also in attendance,  the Ranking Member of Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). 

In Washington, as Woody Allen once joked, ninety percent of success is showing up. All the Democrats showed up.  

However, John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the full committee, was a no-show. 

Thus, the most senior Senator present for the hearing, in an institution dedicated to Seniority (hence the name "Senate"), was a Democrat. 

Only one other Republican was present on the dais, Senators Steve Daines (R-MT). All the other G.O.P. members, including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) were absent. Message: I don't care.

So the signal from the G.O.P. was clear: Chairman Cruz was almost home alone, while the Democrats were united. 

Given the rules of the Senate, where question-and-answer time at a hearing is allocated among Senators, as opposed to witnesses, it meant that the Democrats would enjoy a 6-2 advantage during the proceedings. Cruz had obviously failed to garner the support of his subcommittee. While he could chair the hearing as a personal prerogative, he would not be able to control the questioning, nor would he be able to count on the intercession of Republican Senators to  back up witnesses, should they be browbeaten or ignored.

The layout of the witness table revealed serious shortcomings in subcommittee staff work as well. Alongside Steyn were Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville;  Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology;  Dr. William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics, Princeton University; and Dr. David Titley (Rear Admiral, USN (ret.)), Professor of Practice, Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, Director, Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk.

While Steyn and Professors Christy, Curry and Happer were Majority witnesses, called by the G.O.P. to raise questions about purported climate change data, Dr. Titley was a Minority witness, called by the Democrats. Given the attendance at the hearing, that meant for every two questions asked by two Republicans of four witnesses, six could be asked by Democrats of one witness. 

The principle of most Senate hearings is that Democrats call on Minority witnesses. and Republicans call on Majority witnesses. So, some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic shows that before one word had been spoken, Dr. Tilley would have  had 30 minutes during each round of questioning (6 Democratic Senators x 5 minutes) versus each of the others, who could be recognized for only 2.5 minutes each, if all were called upon equally (2 G.O.P. Senators x 5 minutes = 10 minutes / 4 witnesses = 2.5 minutes).

While subcommittee staff might not be able to command Senators to attend when the Chairman is unable to persuade them, staff could have arranged separate panels of Majority and Minority witnesses, so that Democrats would not have been able to dominate the questioning of Republican experts. In order to give a hearing to the complainants, Majority witnesses could have been scheduled first, then Minority witnesses on a second panel. It would have been fairer to the experts themselves--two of whom left the hearing room early after being alternately ignored and insulted by the Democrats: Dr. Christy, perhaps the world's leading authority on satellite remote sensing of global temperatures related to climate change; and Dr. Curry, author of Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans.

In the end, unfortunately, the hearing resembled farcical scenes with Senator Dilworthy in Mark Twain's satirical novel of Washington, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.

As someone who has testified before Congress in a similarly controversial debate, I would say based upon my experience that it is likely that poor staff work by the Majority permitted subcommittee witnesses to be abused by the Minority and the hearings to become a circus. 

For example, subcommittee staffers did not even manage to arrange for C-Span coverage of a hearing with a celebrity witness chaired by a Presidential candidate on one of the hottest topics in politics: Global Climate Change. Likewise, there was no coverage in major media such as network news, The New York Times, or Washington Post.

Indeed, during the hearing it was Mark Steyn, rather than either Republican Senator, who came to the rescue of a damsel in distress, when Senator Markey insulted Professor Curry's integrity as a scientist, then wouldn't allow her to respond. Stein demanded that the Senator allow her a right of reply, which resulted in an unusual colloquy, also captured in a YouTube video:

Only later, when Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) denied Steyn a right of reply, did Chairman Cruz recognize the witness himself:

Bottom line: While he deserves credit for raising important issues and inviting climate dissidents to present their concerns before the Senate, Chairman Cruz and his staff failed to properly manage the hearings to insure that expert witnesses were respected and their message communicated clearly to the public.

If Senator Cruz seriously wants to be elected President of the United States, he'll need to show he can do a better job of managing his own subcommittee.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thank Sara Josepha Hale for Thanksgiving...

This Thursday, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving with a Turkey dinner and expressions of gratitude. Although the holiday has apparently become a target for the Politically Correct One Percent and Black Friday Capitalists alike, it is still a major US holiday, celebrated with turkey dinner.

Some may not feel very grateful, in the aftermath of recent ISIS attacks on Paris.

However, a look at the history of the Thanksgiving reveals that far from being a triumphal celebration of "white privilege," it is historically a solemn undertaking to demonstrate perseverence in the face adversity,  in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."  It was established due to a long campaign by an American woman writer and editor named Sara Josepha Hale, author of Mary Had a Little Lambwho personally persuaded Abraham Lincoln to proclaim the national holiday in the middle of the Civil War.

Growing from the roots of Thanksgiving as a tragic festival for a war-torn nation, the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth Massachussets mounted an historical exhibition dedicated to the holiday immediately in the wake of 9/11. 

It was  titled Giving Thanks: The Religious Roots of Thanksgiving. The show ran from November-December 2001 and was curated by Peggy M. Baker, Director and Librarian of the Pilgrim Society. It remains online at the Society website to this day, and makes for interesting reading at this time, when once again the world has faced atrocity and massacre. If anything, Thanksgiving is a holiday of resilience and endurance, and its meaning only grows over time.

In her online catalog, Baker noted that the legendary first Thanksgiving of 1621 was officially unrecorded, although it is alluded to in personal correspondence.  However, within two years it had become official in the Plymouth Colony: 

The Pilgrims’ first recorded religious day of thanksgiving was held in 1623. Plymouth had been stricken with a severe drought. "Upon which," said William Bradford, "they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress." That same evening it began "to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God… For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving."

And concluded: "Today, we still share the religious spirit of those earlier Thanksgivings:

  • an autumn thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the year is proclaimed,
  • our abundance is shared with those who are less fortunate,
  • and many families, before the feast, bow their heads in prayer."
Baker noted that the holiday became a national institution early in the American Revolution, and cited its celebration at Valley Forge as a significant turning point:

The first national Thanksgiving was proclaimed in gratitude for the American victory at Saratoga in 1777. The Continental Congress set aside Thursday, December 18th that "the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor." 
On December 17, 1777, the day before the first national Thanksgiving, George Washington was in winter quarters at Valley Forge. He wrote:
Tomorrow being the day set apart by the honorable Congress for Public Thanksgiving and praise, and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgments to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us, the general directs … that the chaplains perform divine service.
In addition to an opportunity for prayer, acts of charity were part of Thanksgiving celebrations, with Baker quoted none other than Sara Josepha Hale:

The Cheerful Giver
Although Providence has blessed our land with an abounding harvest, we must remember that there are among us many who will have but a scanty and insufficient share in this abundance. The civil war has given to our care many maimed and helpless men, many widows and orphans, many destitute refugees… Let us each see to it that on this one day there shall be no family or individual, within the compass of our means to help, who shall not have some portion prepared, and some reason to join in the general Thanksgiving. (Sarah Josepha Hale, in Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1864)

"The Widow's Thanksgiving,"
Harper's Magazine, December 5, 1874

However, after the Revolution until the Civil War, Thanksgiving proclamations were largely issued by State Governors rather than the President.

Enter Sara Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book, who is credited as "the godmother of Thanksgiving" on the Pilgrim Society website, which says her 1827 novel, Northwood: A Tale of New England, for popularized the holiday (although mistakenly placing it in the Massachusetts Bay), as well as her 1835 short story, "The Thanksgiving of the Heart," in her collection Traits of American Life, which published this description:

Our good ancestors were wise, even in their mirth. We have a standing proof of this in the season they chose for the celebration of our annual festival, the Thanksgiving. The funeral-faced month of November is thus made to wear a garland of joy...There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which a whole community participate. They bring out, and together, as it were, the best sympathies of our nature. The rich contemplate the enjoyments of the poor with complacency, and the poor regard the entertainments of the rich without envy, because all are privileged to be happy in their own way.

The website explains: "In these two books are the beginnings of what would grow to be one of Sarah Josepha Hale’s lifelong crusades. The platform from which she would wage her holy war was that of editor of Godey's Lady's Book."

The first year of her editorship, 1837, Sarah wrote the first of her Thanksgiving editorials. Praising the holiday for its domestic and moral influence, she suggested that it “might, without inconvenience, be observed on the same day of November, say the last Thursday in the month, throughout all New England; and also in our sister states, who have engrafted it upon their social system. It would then have a national character, which would, eventually, induce all the states to join in the commemoration of “In- gathering,” which it celebrates. It is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart the social and domestic ties. It calls together the dispersed members of the family circle, and brings plenty, joy and gladness to the dwellings of the poor and lowly.”

Sarah did not introduce the topic again until 1842, when she used the example of Thanksgiving to favorably compare New England to “Old” England:

“At this season every family, almost, in our land has the comforts of life, and nearly all have the hope and prospect of living thus comfortably through the coming seasons. In Old England it is not so. Thousands, aye, million of her people are suffering daily from the "want of all things!"

Sarah’s crusade for a national Thanksgiving really began in 1847, when she noted that:

The Governor of New Hampshire has appointed Thursday, November 25th, as the day of annual thanksgiving in that state. We hope every governor in the twenty-nine states will appoint the same day -- 25th of November -- as the day of thanksgiving! Then the whole land would rejoice at once.”

This was followed by editorials in 1848 (there were two that year!) and 1849. After a one-year gap in 1850, Sarah resumed her Thanksgiving editorials, continuing without interruption for more than 20 years.

As Sarah noted in one of her 1848 editorials:

“...the appointment of the [Thanksgiving] day rests with the governors of each state; and hitherto, though the day of the week was always Thursday, that of the months had been varied. But the last Thursday of last November [1847] was kept as Thanksgiving Day in twenty-four of the twenty-nine states -- all that kept such a feast at all. May the last Thursday of the next November witness this glad and glorious festival, this „feast of the ingathering of harvest,‟ extended over our whole land, from the St. Johns to the Rio Grande, from the Plymouth Rock to the Sunset Sea.”

Sarah’s crusade was, therefore, two-fold. She wanted every governor of every state or territory to proclaim a Thanksgiving Day and she wanted that day to be uniform throughout America. Then, as she proclaimed in 1851, “There would then be two great American national festivals, Independence Day, on the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving Day, on the last Thursday in November.” She explained her choice of the last Thursday in November in this way.

“The last Thursday in November has these advantages -- harvests of all kinds are gathered in -- summer travellers have returned to their homes -- the diseases that, during summer and early autumn, often afflict some portions of our country, have ceased, and all are prepared to enjoy a day of Thanksgiving.”

Several strong themes carried throughout Sarah’s campaign. One was the importance of Thanksgiving’s religious connotations:

"THE FOURTH OF JULY is the exponent of independence and civil freedom. 

THANKSGIVING DAY is the national pledge of Christian faith in God, acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings. These two festivals should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as inseparable from American life.” (1852)

Another was Thanksgiving’s role in unifying a geographically far-flung nation:

“ would be better to have the day so fixed by the expression of public sentiment that no discord would be possible, but, from Maine to Mexico, from Plymouth Rock to Sunset Sea, the hymn of thanksgiving should be simultaneously raised, as the pledge of brotherhood in the enjoyment of God‟s blessings during the year.“ (1854)

As years passed, Sarah’s editorials emphasized ever more strongly the unifying role that Thanksgiving could play within an increasingly divided nation. In 1859, she rhapsodized

We are already spread and mingled over the Union. Each year, by bringing us oftener together, releases us from the estrangement and coolness consequent on distance and political alienations; each year multiplies our ties of relationship and friendship. How can we hate our Mississippi brother-in-law? and who is a better fellow than our wife‟s uncle from St. Louis? If Maine itself be a great way off, and almost nowhere, on the contrary, a dozen splendid fellows hail from Kennebec County, and your wife is a down-Easter.”

That year, 32 states and territories, plus the District of Columbia, celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.

In 1860, she wrote:

“Everything that contributes to bind us in one vast empire together, to quicken the sympathy that makes us feel from the icy North to the sunny South that we are one family, each a member of a great and free Nation, not merely the unit of a remote locality, is worthy of being cherished.

We have sought to reawaken and increase this sympathy, believing that the fine filaments of the affections are stronger than laws to keep the Union of our States sacred in the hearts of our people... We believe our Thanksgiving Day, if fixed and perpetuated, will be a great and sanctifying promoter of this national spirit.”

Sarah’s hopes were, of course, not to be fulfilled. In 1861, the bombardment of Fort Sumter opened the Civil War.

Sarah reported that, in 1861,“this National Feast Day was celebrated in twenty-four States and three Territories; all these, excepting the States of Massachusetts and Maine, held the Festival on the same day the last Thursday in November. “ The “missing” states were, of course, those of the Confederacy.
Sarah did not give up the fight. Instead, she tried a different strategy. As she suggested in her 1863 editorial:

“Would it not be of great advantage, socially, nationally, religiously, to have the DAY of our American Thanksgiving positively settled? Putting aside the sectional feelings and local incidents that might be urged by any single State or isolated Territory that desired to choose its own time, would it not be more noble, more truly American, to become nationally in unity when we offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year?

Taking this view of the case, would it not be better that the proclamation which appoints Thursday the 26th of November (1863) as the day of Thanksgiving for the people of the United States of America should, in the first instance, emanate from the President of the Republic to be applied by the Governors of each and every State, in acquiescence with the chief executive adviser?”

Sarah’s questions were rhetorical.

On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale had written to President Abraham Lincoln. The letter is preserved in the Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the Library of Congress. In it she wrote

”As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag -- could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.”

Sarah Josepha’s petition brought the result she was seeking. On October 3, Lincoln issued a proclamation that urged Americans to observe the last Thursday in Novemberas a day of Thanksgiving. 

Here's the text of Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, as relevant today as in 1863:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. 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. 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, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Thank you, Sara Josepha Hale, for Thanksgiving.