Holiday Restoration Campaign

Examples of Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"Coupled with our grateful acknowledgment of the blessings it has been our high privilege to enjoy, we have a deepening sense of solemn responsibility to assure for ourselves and our descendents a future more abundant in faith and security. 

"Let us, therefore, on the day appointed, each in his own way, but together as a whole people, make due expression of our thanksgiving and humbly endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Almighty God." 

President John F. Kennedy, 1963 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist." 

President Ronald Reagan, 1985 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"Although the time and date of the first American thanksgiving observance may be uncertain, there is no question but that this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. 'Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,' the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the 'wondrous works' of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers....Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name." 

President Bill Clinton, 1996 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world's first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community. Each of us can be an instrument of blessing to those we touch this Thanksgiving Day — and every day of the year." 

President George W. Bush, 2001 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"As we recover from the terrible tragedies of September 11, Americans of every belief and heritage give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy as a free, faithful, and fair-minded land. Let us particularly give thanks for the self-less sacrifices of those who responded in service to others after the terrorist attacks, setting aside their own safety as they reached out to help their neighbors. Let us also give thanks for our leaders at every level who have planned and coordinated the myriad of responses needed to address this unprecedented national crisis.  And let us give thanks for the millions of people of faith who have opened their hearts to those in need with love and prayer, bringing us a deeper unity and stronger resolve." 

President Barack Obama, 2014 Thanksgiving Proclamation
"With God's grace, this holiday season we carry forward the legacy of our forebears. In the company of our loved ones, we give thanks for the people we care about and the joy we share, and we remember those who are less fortunate. At shelters and soup kitchens, Americans give meaning to the simple truth that binds us together:  we are our brother's and our sister's keepers.  We remember how a determined people set out for a better world -- how through faith and the charity of others, they forged a new life built on freedom and opportunity."


For a complete list of Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, visit http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/thanksgiving_proclamations.htm.

Teaching Students About The Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

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A Lesson on Gratitude

Here are some classroom activities for all grades that teach about the yearly Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. 

Print and share with the students a copy of the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (visit www.whitehouse.gov , then do a search on “Thanksgiving” and look for “President’s Thanksgiving Message”). Each year, the President issues a proclamation just a few days before the holiday. Consequently, it is difficult to use the current proclamation unless your lesson is the day before Thanksgiving. 

For a complete list of Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, visit http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/thanksgiving_proclamations.htm.


Use the ideas below in age- and grade-appropriate ways:

1. Show a picture of The President and talk about what a President does. 

2. Ask students why the President issues a Thanksgiving Proclamation each year.  Suggested answer: It has been a tradition since the founding of our country that Presidents ask Americans to thank God for the blessings we have received as a nation in the previous twelve months. 

3. Vocabulary Race. Have students divide into groups of equal size. Have each group make a list of vocabulary words from the proclamation and exchange the list with another group.The lists of words should be equal to two words per student in the group. At a signal from the teacher, each group works as a team to find and write the appropriate definitions of the words. The first group finished is the winner. The group must read aloud its definitions to prove they are correct. 

4. Read the closing paragraph(s) to the class and ask students to list the things the President asked Americans to do on Thanksgiving Day. 

5. Ask students how they can each do the things the President asked them to do. 

6. In small groups, have students create a “found poem.” Have students read the document and underline phrases (not sentences) they think are most important. Each student then chooses only two phrases as the most important and writes each phrase on a separate strip of paper. The group then arranges the strips of paper to create a free-verse poem. Have a spokesperson for the group read the poem to the class. 

7. We often speak of “owing” someone a debt of gratitude. Have students list things they have for which they are thankful (possessions, experiences, special events, opportunities given) and to whom they can be thankful for providing them. 

8. Teach students the social skill of expressing gratitude. Have the class create a hypothetical situation in which one person gives a thing or an opportunity to another person. As a class, discuss and list three or four steps to showing gratitude. For example: (1) face the person, (2) look the person in the eye, (3) say “Thank you,” (4) continue by saying “I appreciate that you ____________” and explain why you are grateful. 

9. The Roman lawyer Cicero once wrote, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, it is the parent of all other virtues.” Have students discuss what they think he meant. Have them brainstorm a list of virtues as you write them on the board. Why is gratitude the basis for those virtues? Can they give examples?

Christmas in Your School

Christmas in your school

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Many educators want to teach about Christmas but are afraid to do so. Their fear usually stems from complaints they have had (or think they will have) from parents, administrators, or colleagues. The good news is, schools and teachers CAN teach about the religious aspects of holidays as an important part of learning about American culture. 

Part of a Student’s Education
In the case of Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, upheld the constitutionality of the school’s policy on religious holidays. The policy stated:
Music, art, literature, and drama having religious themes or basis are permitted as part of the curriculum for school-sponsored activities and programs if presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of the particular holiday.

Reading the Christmas Story
In Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court stated “The Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.”

Christmas Carols
The Supreme Court assumes your school is having children sing Christmas carols. In Lynch v. Donnelly, dealing with the public display of a nativity scene, the Court commented:

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"To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools, and while Congress and state legislatures open public sessions with prayers, would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation’s history and this Court’s holdings." (Emphasis added)

The largest organization of public school music teachers, the National Association for Music Education, states that “the study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education. The omission of sacred music from the school curriculum would result in an incomplete educational experience.”

Terminology
It may be helpful to use the term “recognizing Christmas” rather than “celebrating Christmas.” Using the word “celebrate” may cause some people to feel that you are promoting religious participation in the holiday. There is a difference between “participating” in the holiday in a devotional manner and “recognizing” the holiday in an engaging academic manner. 

It is also best to teach about Christmas using words of attribution such as: “Christians believe…;” “The Bible says…;” “Christmas is special for Christians because...;” and so forth. 

Nativity scenes can be used as teaching aids to illustrate the cultural lesson regarding the birth of Jesus. They are not permanent fixtures in the classroom. 

Christmas carols can be sung as educational experiences for culture understanding; not religious experiences. 

Reading the story of the birth of Jesus to students is permissible to help students gain a basic academic familiarity with a person who has influenced so many people throughout history in government, art, literature, music, and social movements.

Presented with an eye toward education, not endorsement or devotion, recognizing the religious aspects of Christmas is a legitimate academic activity. It is best to start early this fall to inform teachers and administrators that they need not censor Christmas from their programs. 

RESOURCES:
Other Gateways Christmas Resources
Alliance Defending Freedom - What Can Be Done in Public Schools Regarding Religious Holidays
Give “A Gift for Teacher” to educators. It is an eight-page booklet designed to look like a greeting card. It uses a humorous story to explain what can legally be done at Christmas. It includes a model policy, quotes from court cases, and lesson plan ideas.

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Resurrect Easter in Your School

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You can help get the Easter story told to your child's class this year. How? By presenting the non-threatening Holiday Restoration Card from Gateways to Better Education to your child's teacher. You also may want to ask the teacher if you can share what Easter means to your family, and even read scripture. 

Diane Borja, a parent, wrote: "The effectiveness of the Easter cards multiplied like bunnies!" She shared the card with her prayer group, and every mom purchased a card to give to their child's teacher. 

"I bought extra cards," Diane explained, "and mailed them to teacher friends in other school districts. My friends were elated and enthusiastically shared the information with fellow teachers." "Thanks to your Easter card," Diane added, "I did a Passover/Easter presentation (complete with a homemade tomb and figures) in my son's second grade class. I had the privilege of explaining the historical meaning of the holiday in a fifth grade class as well." 

The eight-page Easter card tells the humorous story of an encounter between the Easter Bunny and a teacher. The bunny explains that the true message of Easter is about new life in Jesus. The teacher raises all the objections commonly heard from public school educators, but in this story, the smart little bunny is very familiar with U.S. court cases. He helps the teacher understand that teaching about Jesus at Easter is legally permitted. The card also includes legal documentation, Constitutionally-sound lesson plan ideas, and more! 

EASTER RESOURCES:


Order the EASTER CARD, Bunny goes to School, to give to your teacher.

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Request a copy of our Easter Lesson Plan for Public Schools by CLICKING HERE.

Similar in appearance to a middle school textbook, it adapts Luke 22-24 into a textbook-style lesson with pictures, vocabulary, culture facts, and discussion questions.

We would love to hear how you helped restore Easter in your school. Tell us your story here.