Today, as Americans of all beliefs and backgrounds and circumstances count their blessings, it seems oddly appropriate that Thanksgiving was first officially recognized during the Civil War.
Although Thanksgiving observances predate the founding of the United States, it was in 1863 that the occasion became a federal holiday. “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” President Abraham Lincoln said in establishing a holiday that has been officially observed each year since.
Thanksgiving celebrations date back to 1621, even if the oft-told stories of their origins are somewhat inaccurate. But Lincoln saw an opportunity to create a diversion from a conflict that had fractured our nation.
Indeed, the War Between the States makes our modern strife seem rather pedestrian. And it provides some context for the many reasons the people of Clark County have to be thankful.
There is, for example, a land that we love, with mountains and prairies and oceans white with foam — all easily accessible for local residents. Clark County is blessed with uncommon natural beauty, a beauty that requires constant care and must not be taken for granted. Invoking the words of Lincoln, we have, indeed, benefited from fruitful fields and healthful skies in this part of the country, and with proper diligence those fields and skies will remain a hallmark of the region.
But beyond the natural blessings, here are some human-made reasons to give thanks for living in this area:
- A strong economy in which jobs are plentiful. The latest numbers, from September, indicate that unemployment in Clark County is about 3.6 percent. That reflects a steady post-pandemic decline and is the lowest mark for a September since 1997. It also is lower than unemployment levels throughout the state and the rest of the nation.
- Smart development that adds vibrancy to our community. The Waterfront Vancouver has helped transform the city’s core. But growth in Uptown Village and in east Vancouver also has reflected a dynamic community. With further development along the Columbia River and in the Heights District underway, Clark County is positioning itself for a prosperous future.
- Some sense of normalcy. While COVID-19 still is with us, safe and effective vaccines have allowed us to resume daily routines, three years after the virus upended holiday traditions. Caution is warranted, but we are thankful that most people have been able to resume family gatherings.
- Fun and games. The Ridgefield girls soccer and Columbia River volleyball teams have won state championships this fall. The Seton Catholic football team is in the Class 1A state semifinals. Washington and Washington State have agreed to continue the annual Apple Cup football game through at least 2028. They’re only games, but athletics provide lifelong lessons for competitors and provide the rest of us with enjoyable diversions.
- Columbian readers. The past 15 years or so have been difficult for the news industry, with online news, online advertising and social media upending the marketplace. The Columbian is an increasingly rare example of a locally owned news outlet, supported by readers and contributors to our Community Funded Journalism Program as we strive to inform Clark County.
We hope that everyone in our community has many blessings to count today. Happy Thanksgiving.