Americans can “overcome the challenges of our time” and help ease political gridlock and partisanship by coming together the way they do on Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio address Thursday.
“With all the partisanship and gridlock here in Washington, it’s easy to wonder if such unity is really possible,” Obama said in the address.
“But think about what’s happening at this very moment: Americans from all walks of life are coming together as one people, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. If we keep that spirit alive, if we support each other, and look out for each other, and remember that we’re all in this together, then I know that we too will overcome the challenges of our time.”
In the address, Obama acknowledged that for many Americans “this Thanksgiving is more difficult than most” because of the down economy and high unemployment. But the president repeated a line he has made countless times throughout his presidency: “The problems we face didn’t develop overnight, and we won’t solve them overnight.”
“But we will solve them,” Obama added. “All it takes is for each of us to do our part.”
The president — who said his family would spend Thanksgiving “eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we are” — also gave thanks to the servicemen and servicewomen overseas and promised to help them reacclimate when they return home from duty.
“To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families, the American people are thinking of you today,” the president said. “And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you’re serving America.”
Obama said he was also grateful for Americans who are giving back to their communities and spending parts of the holiday season volunteering in shelters and soup kitchens.
“This sense of mutual responsibility – the idea that I am my brother’s keeper; that I am my sister’s keeper – has always been a part of what makes our country special,” he said. “And it’s one of the reasons the Thanksgiving tradition has endured. The very first Thanksgiving was a celebration of community during a time of great hardship, and we have followed that example ever since.”
The president, first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and first grandmother Marian Robinson spent part of Wednesday afternoon at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, which White House aides say distributes about 30 million pounds of food a year. The first family donated two dressed turkeys and M&Ms to the food bank, aides say. The family was joined at the food bank by members of the basketball team at Oregon State University, where Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, serves as the men’s head coach.
Earlier in the day, Obama — in keeping with the annual White House tradition— pardoned two turkeys, Liberty and Peace.
“Some of you may know that recently I’ve been taking a series of executive actions that don’t require congressional approval,” Obama said to laughter from guests who had gathered at the White House North Portico for the turkey pardon. “Well, here’s another one. We can’t wait to pardon these turkeys … otherwise they’d end up next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing.”
More seriously, Obama added, “When we gather around our tables tomorrow to share the fruits of our blessings, let’s remember what that means. Let’s be grateful for what we have. Let’s be mindful of those who have less. Let’s appreciate those who hold a special place in our lives, and make sure that they know it.”
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