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President McLean:
“Recall These Blessings and
Give Thanks to God for Them”

Posted: November 26, 2019

TAC Podcast

By Dr. Michael F. McLean
President, Thomas Aquinas College
Remarks at the California Thanksgiving Dinner
November 24, 2019


Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, read earlier by Mr. Seeley, was delivered at a time of great national trial. Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a national day of thanksgiving on October 3, 1863.

This was three months following the battle of Gettysburg, in which 23,000 Union soldiers and between 20-28,000 Confederate soldiers met their deaths — nearly 50,000 young soldiers in a three-day period. It was approximately seven months before the Battle of the Wilderness, in which 17,000 more Union soldiers and over 7,000 more Confederate soldiers were killed. The surrender at Appomattox, which ended the Civil War, would not take place until April 9, 1865.

Lincoln, however, looked beyond these afflictions to the nation’s essential goodness and to the great things that lie at its foundation. And so he implored his fellow citizens to thank God for the peace the country enjoyed with many nations, for the blessings of its natural resources, for the maintenance of public order, and for obedience to its laws. He celebrated its economic vitality — “the plough, the shuttle, the ship, the axe, and the mines,” its expected duration, and the expansion of freedom.

And because these blessings are so constantly enjoyed, he noted our tendency to forget the source from which they come — “the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Although we are not in a shooting civil war, we too live in a time marked by division. The Natural Law is under attack, the traditional family is under attack, and religious liberty is under attack. But, like Lincoln, we are called to be courageous in the face of our challenges. As Catholics, we are called to be faithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of the Church.

Like Lincoln, we should look beyond our nation’s tribulations and thank God for the underlying soundness of its institutions and the graces of its circumstances; for the abundance we enjoy and the freedoms which make up the fabric of our lives.

While we might admit that America is not ordered to wisdom and virtue as its ends, it is nonetheless one of the only places on earth with the wealth, generosity, and political arrangements necessary for worthy endeavors to thrive. Not the least among these is Thomas Aquinas College itself. It is no accident that the College was founded in America, and that the blessings America provides make possible the pursuit of truth and excellence that takes place here and now in New England as well.

At Thanksgiving we should recall these blessings and give thanks to God for them. We should remember the benefactors of the College, many of whom make substantial sacrifices to assist you with your education, knowing that what we do here plays a vital role in your lives, in the future of Catholic higher education, and in the Church in America. We should remember our teachers and our fellow students who have helped us to see the true, the good, and the beautiful. And we should remember all of our faculty and staff who work hard for your good and for the good of the College.

We should give thanks not only with our words but with our deeds as well, especially now as the semester draws to a close. For some of you this means resolving to make better use of the gifts you have been given and of the opportunities the College and its benefactors provide. It may mean studying harder and doing more to contribute to the success of your classes. For others of you it may mean resolving to make continued good use of those same gifts and opportunities, or it may mean encouraging classmates who are struggling or being mentors to the underclassmen.

I encourage all of you to do your very best from now until the end of the semester. I encourage you to recall and to rededicate yourselves to what you came here in search of in the first place — not high grades or A’s on examinations, not the triumph of your own opinions or the esteem of tutors and students, but rather some things of far greater worth and lasting value: deepening your personal relationship with Christ our King and attaining the beginnings of Catholic wisdom and growth in Catholic virtue.

Thank you, and may God bless America and may God bless Thomas Aquinas College.

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Michael F. McLean at the California Thanksgiving Dinner 2019
Brooks Braden

“At my alma mater and in the Marines, hard work and high standards are the norm.”

– Major Brooks Braden (’97)

Judge Advocate, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves

“On behalf of the Church in Phoenix, I want to express my appreciation of the witness to Christ offered by the faculty, staff, and students of this exceptional institution, and to thank you for your love of learning and your desire to offer fitting worship to the Blessed Trinity.”

– Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted

Bishop of Phoenix