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Public Papers - 1991

Text of the Thanksgiving Address to the Nation

1991-11-27

From Camp David, Barbara and I would like to wish all Americans a joyous Thanksgiving. This holiday has always had a special meaning for the Bush family, as it does for most Americans. Thanksgiving captures our spirit as a people: Our determination, our generosity, our industry, and our faith.

Thanksgiving brings to mind the joys of plenty and the anguish of want. As Americans celebrated Thanksgiving in 1777, George Washington and his troops huddled along the banks of the Delaware River. Buffeted by the brutal cold, haunted by British troops massed over the horizon, they stopped to offer humble words of thanks and praise, and to dedicate themselves to the cause of building a land of prosperous liberty. That simple moment helped establish the American character. Our founders' faith and determination transformed this land from a patchwork of colonies into a republic of ideals.

This Thanksgiving, many of us join friends and family around the table; others share time by phoning loved ones far away; and all of us will think of others. In places of worship across the land, people contribute canned goods or turkeys or clothing. They share their blessings with people suffering through tough times. And that's as it should be. Americans always have expressed their thanks by serving others.

Many people wonder how a President understands what goes on outside Washington, especially to people struggling to make ends meet. Of course, statistics paint a sobering picture: Unemployment, tight credit, lower home values, sluggish job growth. But real life speaks far more eloquently than bare numbers. I have traveled to 48 States since becoming President: Talking, meeting people, listening, learning. I will continue traveling around our great country because that's one way a President stays in touch with people.

Recently, many Americans have written me, saying they want me to know and understand that hard times have hurt them. They don't pull any punches. One man, who lost his job in September, described how he and his wife struggle to support two children at home, pay the bills, and keep up their property while he seeks work. ``Mr. President,'' he wrote, ``now is the time to come to the aid of the American people. The American people need to know that you mean what you say.'' A woman, who typed beneath her signature the words, ``Average Middle American,'' was just as blunt. Her husband recently lost his job, and she wrote that ``it's pretty thorny out there.''

Well, I do understand. I am concerned. And I want to help. I know that for a person out of a job, the unemployment rate is 100 percent.

As a Nation, we need to address today's problems and tomorrow's promise in a new world united in economic competition, not frozen in nuclear conflict.

Over the years we have built a strong foundation for progress in this new, revitalized world. Inflation is down. Interest rates have fallen to the lowest level in years. This year we will export billions of dollars more in goods and services than ever before, and that means good jobs for American men and women.

This doesn't mean that we ought to sit back and hope for the best. We must take strong steps to move ahead. I have asked Congress to pass an important series of initiatives to boost our economy. These include tax incentives to unleash investment, reforms to help our banks do their job, proposals to set loose a revolution in American education, initiatives to keep health care costs down. Taken together, these proposals would let Americans do more, produce more, dream more, dare more. They would create more jobs, good jobs, for American workers.

Unfortunately, Congress did not send me a comprehensive package of economic growth measures. But we can't take ``no'' for an answer.

Now, I know we're about to enter an election year. And I know that both parties will spend a lot of time taking tough shots at one another. In our system of government, the opposition will attack the President aggressively. There is nothing new about this. But when people are hurting, a President cannot accept politics as usual.

Congress left town after a particularly bitter session. We now have a few weeks in which elected officials can cool off and hear from the people they serve. In this time we can build a foundation for greater prosperity. I will continue taking what independent steps I can to help the economy like fighting to create opportunities in foreign markets for American workers. I'll make sure that administration agencies do everything they can to help the people, from getting unemployment checks out to easing the credit crunch. And I will insist that we get the money in our transportation bill out right away to build roads, fix bridges, and create jobs.

When I give the State of the Union speech in January, I will ask Congress to lay aside election-year politics at least long enough to enact a commonsense series of economic growth measures. I will ask politicians to restrain their personal ambitions at least long enough to get the job done. Afterward, the normal election-year battling can resume.

Politicians should remember that hot rhetoric won't fill an empty stomach. It won't create a job. It won't get the people's business done. Americans don't care about finger pointing in Washington, and they certainly have no tolerance for politicians who use tough times for political advantage. So, I will continue to place top priority on the issues you care about: Building a growing economy, world-class schools, and what our founders called ``public tranquility,'' a kinder, gentler Nation rid of crime and united by bonds of brotherhood and service.

Every day, as I confront the tasks ahead of us, I think of the people we serve: The family struggling to make ends meet; police risking everything to keep peace on the streets. I thank God for our teachers, who must serve as psychologists, doctors, social workers, and peacekeepers before getting a chance to teach the three R's. And I do care about the people who write me letters, especially people in trouble, people out of work.

Finally, I also remember the American people I have seen in every State and on virtually every continent: People who will not take no for an answer, people with a zest for life, people who love their country.

Americans don't ignore tough realities; we tackle them. We don't wallow in self-pity or despair. We shove obstacles aside and make life better. Optimism, opportunity, realism, determination: These are oxygen to us; they let our society live and breathe. America grew strong with the help of the greatest resource on Earth, the American people. As we look ahead, we should be as realistic about our strengths as we are about our problems. Every time I talk with Americans, I see our strength, and I feel all the more determined to do what you elected me to do: Foster growth, keep the peace, and maintain our stature as the world's greatest Nation, the standard by which all other countries measure themselves.

Two years ago, I talked to the Nation on the eve of Thanksgiving about the challenges posed by the collapse of communism. We met those challenges.

One year ago today, Barbara and I stood in the sands of Saudi Arabia, looking into the eyes of the finest men and women this country has ever known. I wondered whether I would have to send those young people into battle. We were a Nation on edge, anxious about what lay ahead in the Persian Gulf. No one knew how it would work out.

But look at what they did, what we did. We pulled together. We fought for principle. We stood up to aggression. And when our men and women returned home, remember how we felt: Proud, excited, confident, even relieved, all because we knew that we did the right thing.

Today, democracy is on the march around the globe. Nations long enslaved have begun experimenting with liberty, exploring their own promise as free people. America led the way to this new world. We met the test of world leadership.

Just as we've met every challenge in the past, we will meet those that confront us today. As we do, let us remember who we are and what we've done. Let's give thanks for our blessings, for our families, and our faith. Let's dedicate ourselves to the hard work this moment demands. Let's pledge to join hands in common purpose.

That's the Thanksgiving spirit, and it has lifted us since the Pilgrims first celebrated it more than three centuries ago. Now let's call upon that spirit today to help those in need. Let's call upon that spirit as we move toward a new year and look forward to a new century.

Thank you. May God bless all of you and our great land, the United States of America.

Note: The text of the address was issued by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 27, for release on November 28.

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