As a fifth-generation Montanan, I didn’t choose Montana — Montana chose me. Over 100 years ago, my great-great-grandmother homesteaded 23 miles east of Conrad, and that’s how my family made it to the Last Best Place. And I’ll be forever thankful for that.
There is a lot that makes America an exceptional place to live, and the Thanksgiving tradition is one of them. It’s an integral part of our uniquely American story. For the last 400 years, we have gathered with our families, friends and neighbors to thank God for all that He has given us. But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise,” that we celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
I’ve read Lincoln’s proclamation before my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Lincoln speaks of the abundance of the fields, the peace with foreign nations and the health of a growing population, all the while grappling with the Civil War. He writes, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” And we have celebrated Thanksgiving ever since.
Living in Montana, it’s not hard to find things to fill us with thankfulness and remind us of God’s grace. I’m thankful for our state’s gorgeous public lands. I’m thankful for the wheat fields and their vibrant yellow color. I’m thankful for our Montana farmers and ranchers that put food on our tables. I’m thankful for our first responders that put their lives on the line to protect our families and communities, and for our Montana veterans who answered the call of duty. I’m thankful for the opportunity to wake up every day and serve the people of Montana. I’m thankful to have grown up in the greatest state, in the greatest nation in the world. Most of all, I’m thankful for my family — my sweet wife, Cindy, our four children and our four of grandchildren.
The past few years have been difficult for many Montanans because of the pandemic and inflation. As we sit around our Thanksgiving tables, surrounded by those we love, may we recommit ourselves to our great state, to our exceptional nation, and to each other — because through the highs and lows, Montanans pull together — and that’s how we continue to keep Montana the Last Best Place.