The Mystic Chords of Memory

| November 23, 2023

I never associated Thanksgiving with the Pilgrim story. I still don’t. For me Thanksgiving Day will always be tied to the desire for national unity shared by Abraham Lincoln and Sara Josepha Hale. It is Hale who lobbied Lincoln to federalize Thanksgiving. She chose her man wisely.

Lincoln used his first inaugural address to detail the divisions tearing America apart, echoes of which are too often heard today. Our hyperconnected world can leave the impression that America’s universal values are widely held in disrepute. Yet, I find in Lincoln’s words an abiding consolation as Thanksgiving approaches. Whitman’s fallen captain uplifts me today with his characteristic hope for America. He assures me as he assured the people in 1861 that through the “contemplation of universal law and the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.” The endurance of America proves the rightness of Lincoln’s convictions.

We have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my good fortune, my family, my colleagues, and my clients. I am grateful to live in this nation that ranks among the world’s greatest experiments in human dignity and freedom. I am thankful for the unshakeable moral convictions of President Lincoln and Sara Josepha Hale. I shall end by adopting Lincoln’s sentiments as my own.

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Lincoln's First Inaugural Address | American Battlefield Trust (