Ninety-Five Years Ago, We Tried to Export American Thanksgiving Day Around The World

— Domani Spero

Via achives.gov,  below is an excerpt from David Langbart’s The Text Message blog post from November 20, 2012 about  Thanksgiving Day 1918. The Text Message is the blog of the Textual Services Division at the National Archives.

“Thanksgiving is considered by many to be the quintessential American holidayAs Thanksgiving 1918 approached, American had more reason than the usual to give thanks.  On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to an effective end.  In the wake of that event, the United States made an attempt to broaden the application of Thanksgiving to a selected world-wide audience.

On November 13, the Department of State sent a the following telegram, personally drafted and signed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, to its diplomatic representatives in the capitals of the victorious powers.  The message went to the American embassy or legation in Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, and Siam.”

langbart1_thanksgiving 1918

Click on image to read the cable)

Here is the text of Secretary of State Lansing’s telegram above:

Nov 13, 1918
“You will at the first opportunity offered call attention of the Government, to which you are accredited, to the fact that on the last Thursday of November this country according to customs will celebrate a national day of thanksgiving and prayer. You may add that at this time, when there are such profound reasons for gratitude, the other victorious nations may consider it appropriate to designate Thursday, November twenty-eight, a national day of thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon us.”

Mr. Langbart writes:

Not all countries responded.  Among the responses, the government of Greece appointed November 28 a national holiday to celebrate “deliverance from the yoke of foreign domination;” in Brazil, the government declared November 28 a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing and further stated that “Brazil wishes to associate herself in this thanksgiving with the people of North America who both in time of peace and war have been her friends;” and in great Britain, while there was not enough time to make arrangements for a general celebration, a service took place at Saint Martin in the Fields, attended by a representative of the King, other principals of the UK government, and members of the U.S. embassy.  Several other countries designated November 28 a national holiday.

Mr. Langbart notes that President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) also issued the traditional Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 19, 1918, and it was distributed via telegram to American diplomatic and consular employees around the World.  Click here to see the two-page telegram.

Thanksgiving Day became an official Federal holiday in 1863 under President Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed it  a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.  That 1863 proclamation was reportedly written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting.  The holiday was not always a paid Federal holiday nor always on the fourth Thursday of November.  According to the CRS (pdf), a law signed by FDR on December 26, 1941, settled the dispute and permanently established Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday in November.

🍹 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Thank you for making us part of your day.  And if you have a bird in this year’s White House Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor🍹!! 

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Top Ten Signs Your Embassy Might Be Dysfunctional … or Just Plain Dreadful

1.  Mission Favorites.  Mission staffer’s favorite movie is “Under Siege” but not/not because they’re die-hard fans of Steven Seagal.  The mission’s theme song is  “Front Office in a Bubble” to the tune of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle and it’s not because they want to save time in the bubble and spend them with you.

2.  Voluntold.  When the Front Office holds a meeting on morale participants had to be voluntold so there are real people in the room and not just left over cardboard cut-outs of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from election past.

3.  Liquor Store Run.  Every town hall meeting causes a minor run on the commissary liquor store. This is not necessarily bad as it improves the commissary’s bottom line but, but when employees get up with a hangover the day after every town hall meeting, that is never a good sign.

4.  Not So Cute Nicknames.  Front Office executives and senior managers get nicknames that are neither cute nor fit for polite conversation. The nicknames are occasionally funny, that is, funny to everyone except to those they have been assigned to.

5.  Suck  It Up Buttercup.  The embassy’s motto of DMWL or “doing more with less” has been replaced with SIUB or “suck it up buttercup.”  If employees have legitimate concerns that are impairing their ability to do the work they are sent to do and you tell them to suck it up, what kind of manager does that make you?

6.  Hamsters on Wheels.  Mission staffers ask questions about crisis preparedness in various re-iterations, repeats, rinses, then do over again and again like hamsters on a wheel.  When employees kept repeating the same questions over and over it means 1) they’re not getting the answers they need or 2) they do not believe what you’re telling them.  In which case, they’ll keep asking those questions until they’re satisfied with the answer.

7.  Rumor Has It.  The rumor factory has taken over the embassy compound like the pink slime from Ghostbusters. Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.

8. Humor-less.  It’s been a long time since anyone at post had a real good laugh. Once humor becomes the missing link in the chain of command, then that is a sign of not good things to come.  Employees who are unhappy, demoralized, despondent, frustrated, angry have a hard time laughing at anything unless they are laughing at their senior managers.

9. Post Trends. El Jefe of one of the largest sections at post is suddenly retiring. The resident regional psychiatrist also curtails and retires.  And just about everyone has a curtailment plan.  The non-resident regional psychiatrist posted across the globe has been told he/she is spending way too much time at post. The community liaison officer shows up at Country Team meetings wearing a mockingjay pin. (In The Hunger Games, the mockingjay is a symbol of rebellion and hope among the districts). Uh-oh, trends — the not so subtle and the crafty. And don’t even think about making mocking jay pins illegal.

10. Fan Mail.  Demoralized embassy employees in the Republic of Z send howlers to this blog.  Not one email or two email but emails from the parliament of owls.  Frankly, they are worse than those listed on Harry Potter’s Owl Post.  If you think being featured in this blog is bad, think about how much worse your morning can be when you end up in Al Kamen’s In The Loop column, widely read  by the chattering crowd inside the beltway and the Seventh Floor.

The end.

 

–DS