President's Message - Gratitude

by Chris Rivers, ICHP President
January 15, 2012

This message may seem belated as you are reading it in the January KeePosted issue, but it summarizes my thoughts of the holiday season. As we approach the year’s end, I want to take time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. To understand and remember about Thanksgiving I researched more into the origin of the holiday.

“In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. There is also evidence for an earlier celebration on the continent by Spanish explorers in Texas at San Elizario in 1598, as well as thanksgiving feasts in the Virginia Colony. The initial thanksgiving observance at Virginia in 1619 was prompted by the colonists’ leaders on the anniversary of the settlement. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. In later years, the tradition was continued by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623. While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.

According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden.”1

However, it was the 1863 Lincoln Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving that eventually led to the establishment of our national Thanksgiving holiday. Lincoln wrote:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.2

 A social worker friend of mine moved to England a little over two years ago. She has always been a good writer who started blogging about her adventures abroad in the United Kingdom. Last year she decided to blog daily in November entitled “30 days of Thanksgiving”. The blog was short and simple some days, long and detailed on others but overall made me ponder about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and the holidays. My friend was thankful for many things in her life: motion, sleep, a park around her neighborhood for running, hot showers, anticipation (of a trip), connections (the experience of living abroad would be so much more difficult without the benefit of Facebook, Skype, Gmail, blogging, etc.), milestones, freebies, busy days, follow-throughs, travel, remembrance, a good book, uncertainty, co-workers, food, weekends, plenty (spending sprees), surrogate families, memories, hopes, simplicity, warmth, the unexpected, and the first snow. She also added to this list “Ten on Tuesday”, 10 things she was thankful for each Tuesday, so by the end of November, she actually had many more than 30 things for which she was thankful. She has since moved on from blogging but continues to seek passion in her life and job.

This was my third Thanksgiving driving to Memphis and spending it with my brother and his family. I love driving but at 9 hours, the drive to Memphis is very long. The first year I spent listening to books on tape, but for the last two years I have had company on this trip. During some of this drive I thought about the message I would like to pass on in this article. I thought about Amber and how she inspired me to be thankful, especially at Thanksgiving. It shouldn’t be about the one day of the year but throughout the 365 days of the year. The director of our VA hospital reminds us that daily we display our thanks by treating our veterans, who continue to allow us the freedoms of celebrating the holidays with friends and family, practicing our religion, eating the food we love, working in the jobs we love, and enjoying other freedoms and liberties. We have much to be thankful for with the progress of medicine and of our profession. I am thankful for the numerous advantages of our medical system as I read and hear in the news media of the disadvantaged residents in third world countries. This has helped me cultivate a deeper appreciation for all that is available to us in the United States. As clinicians, we have access to a myriad of resources within a world class medical system that includes expert physicians, researchers, and the latest and safest drugs. We have an array of diagnostic tools and tests that help us detect diseases earlier and cutting edge therapies to treat patients more appropriately. At our fingertips, we have electronic and mobile resources that aid us during the patient encounter, equipping us to be more thorough, accurate, and better clinicians.

Added to my list of gratitude, advocacy through ASHP and collegial societies resulted in President Obama’s Executive Order to Reduce Prescription Drug Shortages. The President’s order directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to broaden reporting of potential shortages, to expedite regulatory reviews, to increase staffing resources for the FDA’s Drug Shortages Program, and to coordinate with the Department of Justice.

Most importantly, the President also expressed support for bipartisan legislation that would require drug manufacturers to notify the FDA six months ahead of a potential shortage so that the FDA can help facilitate increased product availability from other manufacturers. ASHP has advocated strongly in support of this legislation, together with the American Hospital Association and co-conveners of a drug shortages summit last year.

Returning back home, to Illinois and to ICHP, I am most thankful for the opportunity to serve the colleagues in my profession and to the many volunteers and office staff of this wonderful organization. I hope in 2012 you are surrounded by beloved family and cherished friends appreciative of our profession in a world of peace.

  1. Thanksgiving, 2011. Thanksgiving. Available at: Accessed Dec 2, 2011.
  2. Lincoln Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving. Available at: Accessed Dec 2, 2011.

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