This has been a very trying year, filled with challenges and difficulties none of us expected to face. While I wish the trials had reached their end, we must hang on and continue to persevere. But as we do, we should also find some comfort in the blessings that exist even in such dark circumstances and recognize the hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. For in times of great abundance or of great hardship, Americans find strength when we come together to give thanks.
Indeed, the unifying American tradition of giving thanks has been woven into our history since before our nation came to be. However, it’s worth noting that Thanksgiving was made a permanent national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln during a period of extreme difficulty and crisis for the United States: The Civil War. In fact, President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation came just a month and a half before delivering his famous Gettysburg address halfway through the war and amid great uncertainty, uneasiness and what were feared irreconcilable differences.
As we continue to navigate and seek to overcome the coronavirus crisis of our own time, our Thanksgiving celebrations will look different than we’re used to. Whether we gather around a smaller table or see our loved ones virtually, I hope you’ll join in gratitude not only for each other but for the courage and commitment of those continuing to selflessly serve on the front lines of this awful pandemic.
We are truly indebted to those who have gotten up each day, left their houses and gone out to fulfill several key roles. We’ve seen it in our doctors, nurses and health care workers, who have risked their own lives every day to treat COVID-19 patients as well as those with other illnesses and ailments. We’ve seen it in those transporting essential supplies and making critical deliveries. We’ve seen it in our farmers and ranchers monitoring our food supply, along with workers in food processing facilities, meat packing plants and grocery stores, who are ensuring we have food to eat. We’ve seen it also in our military service members, who are still in the field protecting us at home and abroad. And we’ve seen it in our teachers, who have creatively adapted to educate our children in undesirable circumstances.
All the while, our incredibly talented scientists and researchers have been working around the clock to discover, develop and deliver a vaccine and life-saving treatments to defeat COVID-19 and restore our way of life. In just the last few weeks, very promising data has been released about the effectiveness of three potential vaccines, including one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one by Moderna and another by AstraZeneca. In test trials for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both vaccine candidates have shown to be more than 94 percent effective and the latest data from AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed by Oxford University reveals up to 90 percent efficacy, which is outstanding news. And thanks to Operation Warp Speed initiated by the Trump Administration in mid-May of this year, these companies already have contracts with the federal government to provide 100 million doses of their vaccines. That means that once the vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, they can immediately start reaching Americans and saving lives.
Although we are not out of the woods of the pandemic yet and the losses of this year have been difficult to bear, there is still a lot to be grateful for as a nation this Thanksgiving.