I've never been one to begin celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving.
It's not that I disapprove of those who do or that I don't enjoy Christmastime. I've just always thought Thanksgiving has much more to offer than what initially meets the eye. And it goes well beyond Pilgrims and Native Americans, turkeys, family gatherings, and yes, even football.
I believe Thanksgiving's greatest gift to us is opportunity; opportunity that demands we stop our busy lives and gratefully take stock of the provisions given to us throughout the year.
Our Founding Fathers recognized this opportunity. In his first year as president of the United States, George Washington established the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration on November 26, 1789, stating the holiday "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer." Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln, who established Thanksgiving as a federal holiday, said that our "bounties...should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people." And for more than 150 years since Lincoln's proclamation, our nation has paused on the last Thursday of each November to collectively give thanks.
This year, we, as the First District of Arkansas, have much for which to show our gratitude. We have 30 counties in the First District that include the fertile fields and cultural heritage of the Arkansas Delta, the rice fields and duck hunting of the Grand Prairie, the geologic anomaly of Crowley's Ridge, and the scenic, tourism destinations of the Ozark Mountains. Calling this place "home" is truly a privilege to us all, and I encourage that we experience as much of its different regions as possible.
On a personal note of thanks, I'll start by expressing gratitude for the progress in Washington that impacts our district, because the process has not proven easy.
Beginning with the 2014 farm bill, Congress battled through sharp differences that extended well beyond party affiliation into geographic divides and the ever-growing disconnect between urban and rural communities. Nevertheless, I think the final bill passed early this year promotes regional fairness by protecting all producers from market risks while also securing our nation's food supply and providing nutrition assistance to families who need it most.
I'm also grateful for WRRDA, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. Water is a vital resource to the First District, and this overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation deauthorizes $18 billion of inactive projects, accelerates new project delivery while increasing transparency, streamlines environmental reviews, protects communities, improves economic competitiveness, and notably, creates jobs.
Even more importantly than any legislation, however, I'm grateful for the freedoms and liberty we enjoy each day as Americans as well as the men and women who fought to make that dream possible. And finally, as a husband and a father, I'm thankful for my wife, Stacy, and my two children, Will and Delaney. I carry their love and support to and from Washington, and it's the highlight of my week to come home to them.
The English poet William Blake once said, "The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest." Thanksgiving has much to offer us, so let's make sure we accept its gift this year and bear a harvest of gratitude all of next.