November 19, 1988
My fellow Americans:
Over 350 years ago, a small band of Pilgrims, after gathering in their first harvest at Plymouth Colony, invited their friends and neighbors, who were Indians, to join them in a feast of thanksgiving. Together they sat around their bountiful table and bowed their heads in gratitude to the Lord for all that He had bestowed upon them. This week, so many years later, we, too, will gather with family and friends and, after saying grace, carve up a turkey, pass around the cranberries and dressing, and later share slices of pumpkin pie.
We Americans have so much for which to be thankful. Think of the great expanse of our nation, the rolling hills of our immense farmland. Even in years of drought, as this year has been, the plows and the sweat of America's farmers call forth from our good Earth more food than we can possibly eat -- so much food that, taken together, our harvests of wheat, corn, soybeans, fruits, vegetables, and all the other bounty of our land make up one of our most important exports. Not only we but the entire world can be thankful for that. Millions of children across all the continents are happier, healthier, and stronger because of America's farmers.
Now, think of our manufacturing centers. After almost a decade of hard, often painful work, cultivating our industrial fields to meet a whole new generation of world competition, this year we can see the first harvest of that work. Almost every American industry is zipping along at near-full capacity. A few years ago, journalists were calling the Midwest the Rust Belt. Now the Boom Belt would be more like it. From Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania to Dayton and Detroit and beyond, the factory whistles again sound in the old factory towns, and we hope they'll blow soon where they don't now. By the way, often those whistles are at the plants of entirely new companies, providing new products and services to the Nation and to the world.
In the past year, America added 425,000 new manufacturing jobs, and when it comes to world competition, no one can stop us now. And that's not the only good news. According to one of the foremost authorities in manufacturing, Peter Drucker, the old myth about low wages and low manufacturing costs may be dead for good. In this age of high technology, factories, highly paid skilled workers -- America's kind of workers -- produce so efficiently that no one can touch them. That's why it's gratifying, but not surprising, to find out that America's manufacturing productivity has grown at one and a half times the postwar average during our expansion. And that's why this year, even as European and Japanese manufacturing employment has stagnated, our manufacturing employment has increased.
But prosperity is not an end in itself. It helps us pay attention to the more important things: raising our children as we want them to be raised, helping others in need, and bringing nations together in peace.
This week, world peace has been very much on my mind. Here in Washington, we've received visits from two of America's friends, Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In our meetings, these two great leaders and I talked about the prosperity that all the nations of the industrial world enjoy and about the cuts in taxes and the return to the principles of the free market that have made it possible. And we talked about the success over the past 8 years of our policy of peace through strength.
Yes, peace is another thing for which we can say a prayer of gratitude over the dinner table on Thursday, peace and abundance in this land that God has kissed. We will give thanks for these and one thing more: our freedom. Yes, in America, freedom seems like the air around us: It's there; it's sweet, though we rarely give it a thought. Yet as the air fills our lungs, freedom fills our souls. It gives breath to our laughter and joy. It gives voice to our songs. It gives us strength as we race for our dreams.
Think of those around the world who cannot bow their heads in prayer without risking their lives. Think of those countries where to write an honest word or even to own a child's simple toy printing press is a crime. Think of how many countries where to dream of striking out on your own and starting a business is to take a chance not on a better life for yourself and your children but on a long stay in a prison cell. And then think of how blessed we are to be Americans.
Yes, as we gather together this Thanksgiving to ask the Lord's blessings, as we of whatever faith we are give praises to His name, let us thank Him for our peace, prosperity, and freedom.
Happy Thanksgiving! And until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House