Grover Cleveland on Holiday Observance

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Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Grover Cleveland's 1905 Address on "Patriotism and Holiday Observance." It is a speech that I believe others here on this forum would greatly appreciate. Here are some wonderful excerpts in which he exhorts Americans to recall the true significance of holidays and the dangers of letting them become more about festivity than about more fundamental principles of Christianity and public spiritedness.

"Holidays not only have a substantial right to exist, but ought to have a lasting hold upon the sentiment of our people—days which, as often as they recur, should stimulate in the hearts of our countrymen a grateful recognition of what God has done for mankind, and especially for the American nation; days which stir our consciences and sensibilities with promptings to unselfish and unadulterated love of country; days which warm and invigorate our devotion to the supreme ideals which gave life to our institutions and their only protection against death and decay. I speak of holidays which demand observance by our people in spirit and in truth.

The commemoration of the day on which American independence was born has been allowed to lose much of its significance as a reminder of Providential favor and of the inflexible patriotism of the fathers of the republic, and has nearly degenerated into a revel of senseless noise and aimless explosion, leaving in its train far more of mishap and accident than lessons of good citizenship or pride of country. The observance of Thanksgiving Day is kept alive through its annual designation by Federal and State authority. But it is worth our while to inquire whether its original meaning, as a day of united praise and gratitude to God for the blessings bestowed upon us as a people and as individuals, is not smothered in feasting and social indulgence. We, in common with Christian nations everywhere, celebrate Christmas, but how much less as a day commemorating the birth of the Redeemer of mankind than as a day of hilarity and the interchange of gifts...

The self-examination invited by this day's commemoration will be incomplete and superficial if we are not thereby forced to the confession that there are signs of the times which indicate a weakness and relaxation of our hold upon these saving virtues. When thus forewarned, it is the height of recreancy for us obstinately to close our eyes to the needs of the situation, and refuse admission to the thought that evil can overtake us. If we are to deserve security, and make good our claim to sensible, patriotic Americanism, we will carefully and dutifully take our bearings, and discover, if we can, how far wind and tide have carried us away from safe waters...

Our country is infinitely more than a domain affording to those who dwell upon it immense material advantages and opportunities. In such a country we live. But I love to think of a glorious nation built upon the will of free men, set apart for the propagation and cultivation of humanity's best ideal of a free government, and made ready for the growth and fruitage of the highest aspirations of patriotism. This is the country that lives in us. I indulge in no mere figure of speech when I say that our nation, the immortal spirit of our domain, lives in us—in our hearts and minds and consciences. There it must find its nutriment or die. This thought more than any other presents to our minds the impressiveness and responsibility of American citizenship.

The land we live in seems to be strong and active. But how fares the land that lives in us? Are we sure that we are doing all we ought to keep it in vigor and health? Are we keeping its roots well surrounded by the fertile soil of loving allegiance, and are we furnishing them the invigorating moisture of unselfish fidelity? Are we as diligent as we ought to be to protect this precious growth against the poison that must arise from the decay of harmony and honesty and industry and frugality; and are we sufficiently watchful against the deadly, burrowing pests of consuming greed and cankerous cupidity? Our answers to these questions make up the account of our stewardship as keepers of a sacred trust. The land we live in is safe as long as we are dutifully careful of the land that lives in us."
 
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