Thursday, November 22, 2007

Does this teacher know the purpose of Thanksgiving Day?

Sorry, this sounds more like a meal than a thanksgiving feast:

Robyn Gioia doesn't look like a troublemaker. Far from it.

Gioia is a wife, mother and teacher, and her green eyes twinkle when she talks about her fifth-grade students at the Bolles School just north of here in Ponte Vedra.

But Gioia, 53, has written a children's book, and just the title is enough to peeve any Pilgrim: America's REAL First Thanksgiving.

"It was the publisher who put real in capital letters," she says, "but I think it's great."

What does REAL mean? Well, she's not talking turkey and cranberry sauce. She's talking a Spanish explorer who landed here on Sept. 8, 1565, and celebrated a feast of thanksgiving with Timucua Indians. They dined on bean soup.

If you do the math, it is 56 years before the Pilgrims sat down and shared a meal with natives at Plymouth Rock.

Who knew? Not even Gioia, until she attended a teachers' workshop two years ago and heard Michael Gannon, a retired history scholar from the University of Florida, tell the story of Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

Gannon, 80, first laid out the premise of an earlier Thanksgiving in his scholarly book The Cross in the Sand in 1965, but few picked up on it. He says his mention of Menendez's meal was a "throwaway line that lay fallow for 20 years."

That was, until a reporter for the Associated Press in 1985 exposed Gannon's academic findings to the world, which caused what Gannon remembers as "a storm of interest. I was on the phone for three days straight."

Traditionalists, especially in New England, dubbed him "The Grinch who stole Thanksgiving."

This teacher appears to miss the point of Thanksgiving Day, it's not about who ate here first, it's about giving thanks to God and acknowledging him for the many benefits we have in this great nation. Here is George Washington's Thanksgiving proclamation:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.