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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks During a Thanksgiving Day Service on Board the U.S.S. Nassau in the Persian Gulf


Thank you, Chaplain Bebee. And let me thank Captain Dow. Let me, on behalf of Barbara and myself and the four congressional leaders that are with us -- the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom Foley; the leader of the United States Senate, George Mitchell; the minority leader of the House, Bob Michel; and the minority leader of the Senate, Bob Dole -- express to all of you our joy at being here and our great respect for what all aboard Nassau and all that are out here from other units, including our CINC, General Schwarzkopf, are doing. It's a joy to be with you. And I want to thank once again Captain Dow and the ship's company for, I know, an unusual amount of arrangements that go with one of these visits. But we promise to leave on time. [Laughter]

Barbara and I treasure this distinctly American sense of sharing with the families and friends in the faith of our fathers. For many of us, this is a time of contemplation about things greater than ourselves, an opportunity to seek perspective. I notice that Chaplain Bebee called his sermon a meditation. And I'm reminded of the story of the kid that went to church with his grandfather. And he said to the grandfather, ``Grandfather, what are all the flags there along the side of the church?'' The grandfather said, ``Well, that's for those who died in service.'' The kid said, ``Oh, really? The 9 o'clock or the 11 o'clock service?'' And I noticed how brief your chaplain was, and I will try to be the same.

I notice that both Chaplain Dallmann and Chaplain Bebee referred to the Pilgrim fathers. In the early days, Americans gave thanks for the Lord's many blessings. And those, as was pointed out to us here today in the meditation, were indeed hard times -- times of privation, lonely times in foreign surroundings, dangerous times, fearful, perilous. What is so remarkable about the first Thanksgiving is that those hearty souls were giving thanks in an age of extreme adversity, recognizing the Lord's bounty during extraordinary hardship, understanding that his bounty is not in things material but more importantly in things spiritual.

I reminded some at an Army base a while ago that this reminds me a bit of a Thanksgiving that I spend 46 years ago on a carrier, U.S.S. San Jacinto CVL30, off the coast of the Philippines during World War II. I found then that the Lord does provide many blessings to men and women who face adversity in the name of a noble purpose. They are the blessings of faith and friendship, strength and determination, courage and camaraderie and dedication to duty. And I found that the Lord allows the human spirit the inner resolve to find optimism and hope amidst the most challenging and difficult times. He instills confidence when despair tries to defeat us and inspires teamwork when the individual feels overwhelmed by the events of day to day.

Thanksgiving reminds us of America's most cherished values. Freedom was, indeed, as we've heard from our chaplain, the watchword for the Mayflower's journey. Freedom united the Pilgrims in a common purpose. Freedom was the idea that inspired the first Thanksgiving of the colony there at Plymouth Bay.

The grand experiment called America is but a recent manifestation of humanity's timeless yearning to be free. Only in freedom can we achieve humanity's greatest hope: peace. From the wisdom of Solomon to the wonder of the Sermon on the Mount, from the prophecies of Isaiah to the teachings of Islam, the holy books that are our common heritage speak often of the many blessings bestowed upon mankind, often of the love of liberty, often of the cause of peace. And so, I would like to close these remarks with a prayer.

Lord, bless us and keep us. Show us your way, the way of liberty and love. Soften the hearts of those who would do us harm. Strengthen the hearts of those who protect and defend us. Sustain the hearts of those at home who pray for our safe return. We rely upon your guidance and trust in your judgment, for we are one nation under God. Amidst this threat of war, help us find the will to search for peace. As was said upon the Mount: ``Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.'' Amen.

Thank you all very much for inviting these four congressional leaders, for inviting Barbara and me to share this very special day with the sailors, the marines, the coast-guardsmen all out here aboard the U.S.S. Nassau today on this spectacularly beautiful day halfway around the world from the home that we love.

I cannot overstate to you the outpouring of support from your friends and families. General Schwarzkopf was telling me of the mail system here: You get a lot of mail that doesn't even have a name on it, and they spread it all around. I hope some of you have received it. And it does express the support that the American people have for you on this important mission.

So, God bless you all on this very special day. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:23 p.m. on the flight deck. In his remarks, he referred to Capt. Jack Dow, commanding officer of the U.S.S. ``Nassau,'' and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

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