Friday, November 23, 2007

Varieties of Thanksgiving Day

A Florida teacher wants to challenge the usual First Thanksgiving story with one about the Spanish in St. Augustine.

But [Robyn] Gioia, 53, has written a children's book, and just the title is enough to peeve any Pilgrim: America's REAL First Thanksgiving.

"It was the publisher who put real in capital letters," she says, "but I think it's great."

What does REAL mean? Well, she's not talking turkey and cranberry sauce. She's talking a Spanish explorer who landed here on Sept. 8, 1565, and celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. They dined on bean soup.

Couple of problems with that. While the Pilgrims occupy much more mythic space than their numbers justify (do you ever hear about the parallel Anglican colonies and their celebrations?,), the Spanish soldiers and missionaries in Florida occupy none, outside of Florida, where I suppose that they inspire the names of subdivisions. They came, they massacred some French Protestants, and eventually they gave up the territory.

We read about Ms. Gioia's efforts on the train coming home. On T'giving morning, M. called me to breakfast.

"Is it a Calvinist breakfast or a Papist breakfast?"

"Oatmeal and burned biscuits -- what do you think?" she replied.

"Only the Elect will be saved," I said.

And then we had bean soup at supper. As for the people who think that Thanksgiving should be a "day of atonement" or "day of mourning," let them eat cold tofu in the dark. I see too many people trying to make it back to the family home on this one day--a day that is more about social bonds than about history or religion. I, for one, cannot condemn them.



Blogger Michael S. Class said...


When Teachers Forget the True Meaning of Thanksgiving, Our Children Suffer and Our Nation is Imperiled

This year, Seattle public school teachers were reminded by their administrative authorities that Thanksgiving is "a time of mourning" and "a bitter reminder of five-hundred years of betrayal returned for friendship." Seattle school teachers were directed to learn even more horrible "truths" about Thanksgiving: that no one knows when the first Thanksgiving occurred, that the people who came across the ocean on the Mayflower were not really Pilgrims, that the colonists who came to the new land were not really seeking freedom of religion.

In her November 2007 letter to all Seattle Public Schools staff, Caprice D. Hollins, Director of Seattle Schools Department of Equity and Race, wrote: "With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students. This website ( offers suggestions on ways to be sensitive of diverse experiences and perspectives and still make the holiday meaningful for all students. Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at Myth #11 and begin your own deconstruction. Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time. Fact: For many Indian people, Thanksgiving is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship."

Does that make you choke on your turkey? It should. When teachers forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving, our children suffer and our nation is imperiled.

Here is the truth: There is a generally accepted "First Thanksgiving" and its meaning is clear.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is now known as the first Thanksgiving. The most detailed description of the "First Thanksgiving" was written by Edward Winslow in "A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth," in 1621: "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakersof our plenty."

The meaning of Thanksgiving was clear to the colonists: a time to thank God.

The meaning of Thanksgiving has always been clear to all Americans: President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln made sure of that.

In his October 3, 1789, "Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving," President George Washington wrote: "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 thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal 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."

In his March 2, 1863, "Proclamation for a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer," President Abraham Lincoln wrote: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand that preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness. Now, therefore...I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer."

So, why do the administrators of the Seattle Public Schools not know the true meaning of Thanksgiving? Why don't they teach the truth? Why do they insist on a curriculum designed to instill guilt and shame?

I don't know. But, I decided to do something about it.

My name is Michael Class. I live in the Seattle area with my wife and two children. I am a retired "dot-com" executive who just couldn't sit by and let the mis-education of America's youth go unchallenged anymore. I'm tired of seeing America's next generation being fed a curriculum of politically-correct misinformation, guilt, and shame.

I was appalled at how some teachers presented American history to my children. My son and daughter learned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves - before they learned that he wrote the document articulating our rights and duties as free people. European settlers killed Native Americans with blankets infected with smallpox, they found out. That allegation upstaged the stories of courage, perseverance, and curiosity that defined the pioneers. While folding paper cranes in the classroom, my children were told that a hundred thousand people died when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan - but they were not made to understand the moral context of World War II in which the atomic bomb story fit. My children were instructed to equate illegal aliens with legal immigrants, devaluing the story of their own ancestors who came to America through Ellis Island. And, classroom discussions always seemed to cast businessmen as villains, instead of as people to be emulated.

I wrote, photographed, and published an American history book designed to set the record straight, to teach the real lessons of American history, and to prepare our children for the future. My book is called Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame.

In the book, my real-life son, twelve-year-old Anthony, time-travels into the great events of the 20th Century. Advanced digital photography places Anthony in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in the laboratories of Thomas Edison and Jonas Salk, and on Normandy beach on D-Day. Anthony "meets" and "talks with" Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, FDR, Lou Gehrig, Charles Lindbergh, Audie Murphy, and many others. But historical accuracy rules every page of Anthony's adventure in time: Anthony’s conversations with America’s heroes are based on things they really said. My Web site,, displays some of the book's amazing photographs.

But the book goes beyond dazzling photography and solid historical facts: The book presents the moral lessons of American history. Anthony learns valuable lessons from what he sees in the past. Anthony compares the people and events of the past with the people and events of his own time. Anthony discusses the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, war and peace, what it means to be an American, honor and discipline, success and achievement, courage and destiny, marriage and family, God and purpose.

The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is really about living a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about the benefits of business leadership and hard work. The story of Apollo 11 is about wonder, taking risks, and courage. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. When Anthony meets his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it.

The book is written for kids in Grade 6 to Grade 12, and for parents and teachers who want to remember the truth.

We can't afford to raise a generation of Americans who do not value their country, their heritage, and their place in the world. As Abraham Lincoln said: America is the "last best hope of earth."

Please join me! Take some time now to reflect on the past, and to remember our history and our heroes. Bring forth in your mind the real lessons of our history - and share them with your children. Help America's next generation to hear the voices of the great men and women of the past calling them to greatness.

It's time to remember the truth and share it with our children.

(You can read more about why I wrote the book here:

Michael S. Class
Author / Photographer / Publisher



Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: The History Book with a Message for Today's Young Americans

Read the book. Remember the truth. Share it with your children.

Web Site:

7:48 PM  
Blogger Tracie the Red said...

All that said...

Nothing wrong with bean soup.


7:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home