Thoughts from Dale Steenbergen –
I know we live in a big sheep state and, lest I anger the Wyoming Stockgrowers (a founding member of the Cheyenne Chamber by the way), please give me a moment of grace to explain, and I do mean a couple of paragraphs!
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? The pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, the first year survived. Is that why we celebrate the holiday? No, we celebrate Thanksgiving because of Sarah Josepha Hale. Who is Sarah Hale? I am glad you asked! Sarah Hale is the mother of Thanksgiving. Sarah was an amazing woman of her time. She was a writer of poetry, a novelist, a political activist that grew up in a Revolutionary War Vet’s household, and, oh by the way, you know one of her works extremely well. What is that famous work? Let me give you a hint: it was the poem Thomas Edison recited when he first spoke into a phonograph. Have you guessed it yet? It’s Mary Had a Little Lamb. You know it as a song, but it started as a poem simply titled Mary’s Lamb. You get the gist of why it would be a little awkward to eat lamb for Thanksgiving now, but how does Ms. Sarah tie into all of this?
Thanksgiving became an official holiday under President Lincoln. It was seen as a lightning rod event when it was recognized as a national holiday during the Civil War. The continental congress had endorsed a day of Thanksgiving decades earlier which centered on prayer, but it was left up to the states when and how to celebrate such an event. The political environs leading up to the Civil War were highly impacted by the confederate ideals of the south (they focused on autonomy of states) and the more centralized ideas of government espoused by New Englanders. Sarah Halewasn’t having any of this discussion. Sarah worked for the Bunker Hill memorial and Seaman’s Aid Society (an organization to help Boston families who had lost loved ones at sea), and she wasn’t about to let a little political consternation keep her from her goals. Sarah was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book (you also know this magazine as the American Ladies Magazine.) Sarah worked hard and during the Civil War in 1863, Lincoln gave Sarah her dream and it was sold as a unifying event for the nation.
I think we can all agree that if this year’s Thanksgiving could serve as a unifying event for this nation, it would be a wonderful thing. I personally think a little prayer and reflection couldn’t hurt either. So…If you’re tempted to bite into a leg of lamb this Thanksgiving think of Sarah and her little Lamb! If you want to give the noble Turkey a break (a bird Benjamin Franklin thought should be the national bird, but it was decided that eating the national bird was a little too redneckish even for colonists), then eat steak, pork chops, fried chicken, baked fish, or whatever your heart desires. Just step away from the lamb. You are welcome to go back to it all through the Christmas season, but let’s celebrate Sarah this Thanksgiving and give Mary’s lamb a break!
Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving all!
The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1907 and is more than 1,000 members strong. Using guiding core competencies, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce demonstrates leadership by advocating for business at all levels of government and promoting our community to make the region a better place to live, work, and do business. The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce is also active in the Wyoming Business & Industry Federation, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Visit cheyennechamber.org for more information.