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Want to solve the homeless problem? Get involved.

By Sharon Byrne

In January of 2011, I was in Santa Monica overnight counting their homeless population to learn how it was done. Three weeks later, I was out at 4 AM with a team in the Cacique / Milpas area, interviewing homeless individuals for the Point In Time count here. Two years later, we did the count, this time covering the beach west of State and lower Funk Zone.

Why does anyone get out of bed at 3:30 AM to go out and wake up homeless individuals in the cold and interview them?

If you want to solve a problem, you need more than anecdotal evidence of the problem. You need facts. You need data. And you need to see how you’re doing with the problem over time, to see if whatever you’re doing to solve the problem is actually working…or not.

The Point-In-Time count for 2015, which is coming up quickly, is where you can get involved. This costs about 8 hours of effort total every two years, and is totally worth it. It’s a place where you can step up and help your city work on a problem that affects us all.

Our experience on the Milpas Outreach Project, in working with the most chronically homeless, has opened my eyes to how hard this problem is to solve. I now see that we CAN make solid progress when we exit the policy clouds and work at the street level, within our neighborhoods.

Please volunteer to help us do the Point In Time Count. Most of us can probably afford to invest 8 hours every 2 years to help move this ball forward for our community.
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Milpas on the Move: It’s Herb Peterson Day January 27th

By: Sharon Byrne

Bit of Milpas food history for the epi-curious:

The Egg McMuffin was invented on this street. Modeled after Peterson’s personal breakfast favorite, Eggs Benedict, he presented his breakfast product idea to McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, and in 1972, the Egg McMuffin became the first McDonald’s breakfast item. At the time, no other quick service restaurant offered breakfast, and Peterson asked a local blacksmith to make an iron ring to keep eggs round and tidy as they were cooked for a hand-held sandwich.

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On Tuesday, January 27th, McDonald’s here locally will celebrate the creation of the Egg McMuffin® with $1 sandwiches during breakfast hours. Limit 2 sandwiches per customer.

Personal note: when I was little (getting to be a long time ago, grrr), my parents loved Egg McMuffins and marveled at American ingenuity in inventing a breakfast sandwich one could take on the go. Breakfast in restaurants, up until the introduction of the McMuffin, was largely a sit-down, fairly formal affair or the purview of the local casual diner. This was a radical departure from those early days of dining out for breakfast!

Editor’s Note: Erroneously published Herb Peterson Day on January 6, as it had been the previous six years. January 27th is correct so go get you $1 Egg McMuffins.


Santa Barbara Weird

Weekly Column by Sharon Byrne

What follows is a collection of odd experiences over the past week. They’re not particularly indicative of Santa Barbara, except that they occurred here. And that they’re not particularly weird, except, well… they are a bit odd.

First there was the New Years-ish beach walk, over the weekend, before the holiday week ended. My daughter expressed interest in going. She’s 17. She’s been a marvelous child, but those teen years… well they have their tense moments. I know she’s supposed to pull away and become her own person. I welcome it.

I just wish it didn’t feel quite so much like continual rejection.

But on receiving this invitation for the impromptu beach walk, I happily hoped I still have some status as a vaguely interesting person she might want to spend time with. Hooray! So off we went to Hendry’s, with trusty mutt eagerly in tow for the equivalent of Dog Happy Hour.

On arrival, we saw this couple standing at the water’s edge, and the guy was smoking a cigarette. I thought to warn him that there is a ban on smoking at county beaches and offer to let him put his butt in my dog-poo bag, but was still giddy with the notion that my daughter actually sought out my company, and decided to skip the responsible citizen bit for one day. She usually rolls her eyes when I don that role, and I didn’t want to spoil the good mood.

Five minutes later, we hear this woman screaming behind us about how this is her beach, how dare they! She lives here, damn it, and who the f&*$ are they! It was bad enough she had to smell his damned smoke, and then he had the gall to put the cigarette out in the sand and LEAVE IT THERE OH MY GOD!!!!

My daughter and I turned in surprise as this escalated. The couple at the waterline earlier was walking some ways behind us, and this woman, shouting the odds, was walking parallel to them, her embarrassed husband trailing far behind her, clearly pretending he was just some random beach walker, and not any part of this scene.

You’d have thought the man single-handedly engineered the genocide in Rawanda or was in charge of Abu Ghraib, to hear her.

At that point, the weird kicked in, and I actually felt sympathetic to the Smoking Man and his wife. My daughter obviously felt the same, as she said, ‘Mom, I feel so bad for them!’ So we approached. Turns out they were British tourists, and were quite surprised by the vehemence of the upbraiding. My daughter and I apologized, explained about the ban (they hadn’t been aware, and the signs are a bit small and oddly placed), and explained we’re not all like this.

I really should have done the helpful citizen bit at the start, darn it. Could have avoided the histrionics of the whole beach-Nazi scene.

What is also weird about that is that I usually promptly direct would-be litterers to the trash bins. Two nights later, I am walking the mutt, and am almost back at the house. I see this oddly dressed woman out in the middle of the road, and she’s picking up something in the street. She crosses to the sidewalk, a few feet from where I am, and drops her street pick-up. It clinked on landing – broken glass. I asked, hey, why didn’t you walk 10 feet further to the trash bin on the corner? Why drop it here on the sidewalk?

She didn’t even look back. I guess she’d done her civic duty in removing it before some car or bike ran over it and got a punctured tire.

On Monday, it felt like everyone was dazed and confused from the holidays, struggling to get back into the grind. People drove and acted erratically. A pedestrian walking down State decided to step out in front of my car as the light turned green at Canon Perdido. Enjoy your shopping, there, hon. Don’t let those pesky traffic signals slow your progress any! People drove right by the flashing school bus stop sign. They darted across traffic when the road wasn’t clear. Because clearly, getting there 5 seconds ahead of everyone else was so very worth risking lives.

I was beginning to wonder if something was in the water. Maybe when we switched over to groundwater, yeah, maybe something is off there.

And then, there was this. A sidewalk is so totally the right place to park your car.

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To be fair, when this was a 1940’s gas station, it had a beveled ramp into the lot of the old gas station. But it’s been fenced off since 1985. I doubt this driver was confused with pre-1985 conditions.

Whatever.


The Amazing Women of Milpas

By Sharon Byrne

Last year, I penned an ode to the terrific men in the Milpas area that put their hands on this community, and give it a ton of love.

The one’s for the ladies.

Ami Kang at Jack’s Bistro has a ready smile, and created the Milpas Panini, with hand-carved Tri Tip and a spicy chipotle dressing. She braved the Milpas roundabout at 6 AM with coffee and breakfast for the Christmas Tree crew, a welcome treat!

Right up the street, Pam at Your Place Thai will greet you at the door, and serve up all the wonderfully spicy dishes you can stand. There’s a reason she always wins “Best of Santa Barbara”, an honor Ami also won this year.

Mama Lu is one tough cookie, having survived a gang assault on her premises in 2010. She serves the only Taiwanese snack dishes in the city, a secret known amongst the Asian community here, and now you know it too. I can’t read the Chinese menu, but when I see a fragrant dish going by, I ask what it is, and order it next time. They deliver too! Even when you place obscure orders like, ‘something with beef, veggies, a lot of pepper, in a red sauce…” The dishes are amazing! All three ladies put sumptuous entries into the Taste of Milpas™, and helped us get the holiday lights up on Milpas.

New neighbor Natalia Govoni opened Sheer Delight in the 400 block of North Milpas, and she’s got some gorgeous Brazilian lingerie. Want to feel beautiful? Put on anything in her store, and you will. She’s also a tremendous volunteer, and fierce advocate for the business community on Milpas. She welcomes a great conversation, so definitely stop by for a chat.

Dahlila Alv at El Dorado Jewelry is an absolute jewel. Can’t figure out what to get your sweetheart on that special occasion? Go see Dahlila! She constantly comes up with great ideas for things we could do on Milpas to create excitement and make things better, and her enthusiasm is highly contagious.

Behind Dahlila is new Milpas business owner Tere Jurado. She makes jewelry by hand, and some of her pieces are stunning.

New neighbor Linda Sun Stein opened Zen Massage at 500 N Milpas. She’s right next door to Carlota at Omar’s Insurance, who educated business owners on ways to get tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. Carlota and her husband put a great antique truck into the parade.

Chris at Mariah Mazda is a doll, and loves doing the Trick or Treat. Kathy at Marborg is an angel. We rely on Marborg’s help for the Taste of Milpas™ and Holiday Parade. This year, 3 lovely Marborg ladies set up a table on Milpas for the Trick or Treat, and had a blast with the kids! Kim Garden at Mission Linen is a longtime parade supporter, and we love seeing the vintage Mission Linen truck in the holiday parade. Karen Feeney at Allen Construction calls me to make sure she is on the Trick or Treat route, and sponsored the Taste of Milpas™. Juanita at Cesar’s Place has the best Shrimp Cocktail in the city, and Cesar’s is a hit in the parade with their antique truck.

But it’s not just the business ladies that bring love to this community. We have rock star residents and non-profit leaders too.

I arrived at the old Milpas Post Office in early December to clean it for the holiday party. The place was a dusty mess. I sent out one email, asking for volunteers, a couple of days before. Note to self: organize better. As I was contemplating my task, a team of women converged on the old Post Office like Navy Seals, loaded with Christmas cheer, and armed with cleaning supplies, ladders and decorations. Betsy Cramer, Mary and Patty Robles, Abbey Fragosa, Bea Molina, Martha Jaimes, and Natasha Todorovic cleaned, shined, and decorated. The place was completely transformed inside 2 hours.

The men helped, of course. They mopped, hung lights and tried to figure out the electrical situation. They quickly realized the ladies had command of the situation, and applauded. MCA President Alan Bleecker marveled at the team transforming the place.

“It’s always the women, isn’t it?” he asked. “They can make anything happen.”

The women were back at 5:00 AM the next morning to help put up the tree, with Martha updating the star for the treetop and Sue Burke braving the roundabout to hang ornaments.

Raquel Lopez at la Casa de la Raza and Carolyn Brown at Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara work tirelessly on behalf of our community’s children and families. Juanita Hernandez and Casie Kilgore are outstanding principals at Adelante and Franklin, respectively. We are continually impressed with Monique Limon’s drive for this community, and strong advocacy for the children here. She’s very hands-on, a quality I greatly admire in a school board member.

They all deserve a huge de-stressing massage with the healing ladies helming the Santa Barbara Body Therapy Institute. Thank you so much, ladies, for all you do for this community!


A Local Look Back at 2014

By Sharon Byrne

I am going to revisit a few things that broke into our consciousness this year, locally, and on wider stages.

Mental Health Looms Large
A couple of years ago, it became public knowledge that all was not well with our county’s mental health department, ADMHS. The meltdown was exacerbated by the seeming inscrutability surrounding the department. It wasn’t that ADMHS didn’t want more transparency. It’s just that peering into the inner workings was about as easy as deciphering hieroglyphics through lenses covered in mud. The county supervisors (along with everyone else) could not understand the complex billing and gaps within the system. So a giant reorg was undertaken, and is still underway.

Against this backdrop, in May, Elliot Rodger carried out a plan for mass murder in Isla Vista, thrusting Santa Barbara County into the glare of national media. New calls for gun control ensued, though that was only one weapon of choice in Rodger’s heinous plan. New scrutiny was thrust onto the role of law enforcement in cases involving mental illness, ironically just as Sheriff Brown was securing funding for a new jail that would allow better handling of people with severe mental illness. Recognizing that jail is often the de-facto mental health facility in this state, Brown is at least trying to address that problem while also coping with overcrowding and offloading of prison inmates into his jail. He also sits on the state’s oversight commission for the Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004 to provide funding for services for those suffering from acute mental illness. I can scarcely think of more difficult terrain for a law-and-order Republican to have to repeatedly navigate than the void of services for the mentally ill, and admire the sheriff’s tenacity in trying to find solid solutions on this front.

In August, Nicholas Holzer killed his parents, 2 young sons, and the family dog in Goleta. The news reported the killings as close to the University of California at Santa Barbara, and one could be forgiven for wondering if there’s some horrible government plot that puts something in the water or sends subliminal pings to induce insanity there. Someone had a theory like that back in the day about Waco, TX, as the apex of some vortex of unseen energy whose frequency was so high and unbearable, while also undetectable, that it caused people to go insane within weeks.

Whatever.

But two high profile mass murders by individuals suffering from mental illness in the same geographic area in one year has certainly got many of us scratching our heads. On the ADMHS reorg front, Alice Gleghorn has assumed the role of executive director. She comes to us from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, as their county alcohol and drug administrator. She’s got her work cut out for her, but looks to have the chops for it.

District Elections Lawsuit
Sued under an act specifically written, it seems, to encourage lawsuits to end at-large elections in California, the city is staring into the certain future of district elections. No city sued so far has prevailed, as the bar to prove racially polarized voting is low enough for a puddle to clear it easily. Once everyone finally accepts the reality that we will indeed be forced to district elections, expect the ball game to turn into a mad scramble over who is going to be in charge of drawing those lines.

The Drought
It started with Palminteri’s shots this year of Lake Cachuma approaching pond-scale. Right when Santa Barbara started moving to drought restrictions, the State Water Project reneged on delivering any water. The LA Times covered inland communities whose wells had run dry. Their children bathe fully clothed in communal barrels with water hand-carried from another community. Images circulated around social media showing lakes across the state at a fraction of their former size. Fights ensued over who has the right to punch a deeper well for groundwater that multiple farms and families rely on. The state passed legislation to put groundwater under new sweeping controls. 60 Minutes aired a story showing California’s groundwater depletion at dangerous levels via angry red zones. Examinations of Giant Sequoia rings revealed that California has seen 100-year droughts before. And as has happened with big bad droughts here before, a great many of us woke up to the precarious fate of 36 million people utterly dependent on a patchwork of tenuous water supplies governed by a snarl of weird regulations.

On that note, I am heading outside to do my happy rain dance. Maybe I can make the sky laugh hard enough to open up and pour down some relief.

Have a safe and prosperous 2015!


Help For The Seriously Mentally Ill On Our Streets: Your Voice Needed!

By Sharon Byrne

blog-mental-health-638x425I wrote earlier this year on Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), passed in 2004. To refresh: Prop 63 levies a 1% additional tax on the wealthiest Californians, earning over $1,000,000 annually. The MHSA directs these tax dollars to counties to care for the most acutely mentally ill. Since passage, the MHSA has collected $7.4 billion in revenues.

I know what you’re thinking:
$7.4 billion….and we have mentally ill individuals wandering our streets, homeless???? With THAT kind of money available to help them??? Everyone has encountered someone mentally ill and homeless at this point, right? People love to complain about it. I complain, to wit: I was on an early morning beach walk Tuesday, and heard shouting. A disheveled man across the street was shouting the odds at 6 AM. To himself. Or the train. Or me. Or the sidewalk. I’m not sure what exactly wound him up like that, actually.

One of the key components of the MHSA is this: Community Services and Supports (CSS) – provides funds for direct services to individuals with severe mental illness.

Why is my Shouting Man of the Early Morning not serviced by the MHSA? This is precisely who it was intended for. If he’s not in need of direct mental health services, then who the heck is? MHSA provides funding for outreach on the street. It provides funding for treatment, housing, including supportive housing, where he could receive mental health services and remain housed, rather than living on the street and screaming to himself, and the rest of us, at 6 AM.

What!?! They should do something, darn it!

Amen, brother, but ‘they’ is ‘we’, and ‘we’ can do something.

Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) determines the services it will provide with MHSA funding. Every year, the department proposes programs to address the county’s needs for mental health, and seeks stakeholder input on them before applying for MHSA funding from the state.

Who is a stakeholder?

We all are.

Anyone interested in mental health, alcohol and drug services provided in Santa Barbara County should be providing input. And if we want our county to get serious and apply all available resources to solving the problem of severely mentally ill individuals living on our streets, then we’d better get moving. Because right now, the proposed MHSA from the county is not nearly robust enough to adequately address this problem.

So here’s what you can do:

1.    Attend the Stakeholders Meeting:
Dec 16th
9 AM to 12 PM
Ballroom at the Marriott in Buellton.
RSVP to ccontreras@co.santa-barbara.ca.us.

Feel you need more info? Learn more about the MHSA services on offer currently here: http://cosb.countyofsb.org/admhs/admhs2.aspx?id=37228&id2=38600

2. If Buellton is too far to go to a long meeting, here’s one that’s closer and requires significantly less time:
Mental Health Commission Meeting
December 19th
1 PM
Santa Barbara Children’s Clinic,
429 N. San Antonio Rd. Santa Barbara

You can speak for a few minutes at the beginning, during public comment, on the importance of providing increased services for the mentally ill in this county, including outreach, supportive services, and housing. Since there is a bucket of funds allocated by Prop 63 for this purpose, we should expect them to be used to the fullest extent possible to resolve the problem of seriously mentally ill individuals living on our streets. The current plan needs bolstering. The only way that will change is if enough of us make it clear that bolstering it is a top priority.

3. I gotta’ work…OR… another meeting just too much for my already crammed schedule. It IS the holidays, after all. Fair enough. Email your county supervisor and express your thoughts to them. That will take you all of 5 minutes. They’re not hard to get hold of, and they’re usually pretty responsive:

1st District: Salud Carbajal: scarbaja@co.santa-barbara.ca.us
2nd District: Janet Wolf: jwolf@co.santa-barbara.ca.us
3rd District: Doreen Farr: dfarr@countyofsb.org
4th District: Peter Adam: officeofpeteradam@countyofsb.org
5th District: Steve Lavagnino: steve.lavagnino@countyofsb.org

The good news is we live in a democracy, whatever you might think of its present state. You can talk to your elected representatives about this topic, and others, that concern you. You can participate in the public process to help determine the shape and scope of programs like the MHSA that address a specific community need. And you can make a difference.

You can even nudge someone who says ‘they ought to do something, darn it!’ to do something, darn it.

If we want to ensure the resources available to us are used to the fullest extent possible to help the most severely mentally ill among us…well, we can do that.

So let’s get on with it.


20 Years of Kids Day in Santa Barbara

Each year at this time, Rick Feldman throws his special brand of holiday magic and pulls in dignitaries, doctors, clinics, Santa, and more for the kids of Santa Barbara. It’s Kids Day, now a 20 year tradition in the area, held at the Eyeglass Factory on Milpas. Hundreds of kids come from all over to get free eye exams, health screenings, dental care, and more. Rick gives out loads of free eyeglasses to all the kids, and the event is his enormous gift to our region. In the most recent year, over one thousand individuals were given eye exams and free eyeglasses and, over a period of 20 years, it is estimated that over one million dollars in eye care has been provided.

Rick recalls one of the early Kids Day attendees, and a little girl that got him misty-eyed. As she proudly donned her new glasses, a news anchor asked her, ‘what does this mean to you?’ She turned to him, and proudly announced, “well now I can see!” That’s what it’s all about. 

Kids Day at the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory - Sunday, December 14, 9:00 am – 1 pm., 1 S. Milpas Street at the corner of Milpas & Quinientos.

John Dixon of Tri-County Produce, Mayor Helene Schneider and 1st District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal award bikes to lucky kids on Kids Day at the Eyeglass Factory.


What is Community?

Milpas on the Move, by Sharon Byrne

Often we hear the term community used in casual conversation. “I’m doing this for the community.” Or “we give back to our community.”

I looked up the word community, to see where it came from. The oldest roots are, not surprisingly, Latin. The word communitas probably evolved from communis: common, public, general, shared by all or many. There is also communitatem: fellowship, community of relations or feelings. Communitas means things held in common, an organized society, a free city. Rome was a giant, ancient metropolis, of course, but the empire spanned across Europe, and included villages of people living together, in communitas.

The next iteration is old French, 14th century, communete. That evolved to communité – everybody, commonness, community. I’ve also read this definition, which I like the most, though I think it’s questionable as to correct etymology:

Community: The origin of the word “community” comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other.

That’s certainly how it feels on Milpas, with getting our holiday lights up, raising a Christmas tree in the roundabout, and putting on the big holiday parade! It feels like we’re giving among each other, in community, and that is a very sweet experience.

Here’s a look at our community putting on the holidays on Milpas!

(photos by Chris Cowan and Sharon Byrne)

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Sharon’s Take: Election Results Indicate Potential Underlying Shifts

Sharon’s Take by Sharon Byrne, as featured in the Santa Barbara Sentinel

This midterm election served up some surprises, even within predictable outcomes, in my opinion.

Education bonds no longer a slam dunk. Measure S and the Montecito Union School bond both failed. I wrote about Measure S last month, and some readers told me that for the first time ever, they voted against an education bond measure. The question of infrastructure is not exclusive to City College. 60 Minutes just did a story on failing bridges, highways, railroad infrastructure, aging ports that haven’t been dredged in decades, and more. Our city is trying to sort out what should be prioritized in a $600 million capital infrastructure backlog. A whole lot of people are wondering why it is that once upon a time, we had the funding to build schools, bridges, buildings, and a highway system that was the best in the world, but can no longer find funding to adequately maintain any of it? There is a growing unease among our citizenry that something has gone very wrong on this front. How did America, with all its can-do and know-how, come to this place of crumbling infrastructure? And why is it that we can no longer maintain our schools adequately? We once had budget to do that…what happened? I expect future school bond issues will run into increasing scrutiny along these lines.

Lois Capps squeaks by. This was quite surprising. Not that she won, no that wasn’t the surprise. It was that she posted a win of merely 51.7%. The 24th Congressional was considered a Dem stronghold going into this election. Big Republican guns like Boehner were glaringly absent, though McCarthy did pop by to try to help Mitchum. I saw one Mitchum sign on the way to Buellton and a couple around Santa Barbara. Hardly a big threat. But these results move the district to toss-up status, and that’s striking. Which is probably why Capps, with 5 times the war chest of Mitchum, ran the ugliest smear campaign seen in these parts, and she ran it in full saturation mode, astonishing for a Congresswoman who wears ‘nice’ like it’s deodorant.

But maybe it wasn’t Mitchum that had her sweating. Perhaps it’s her would-be-successors circling like hungry sharks, hot on the scent of fresh chum. Midterms tend to favor Republicans, but Dems started saying, “well, I love Lois, of course….” and moved uncomfortably into a pregnant pause, or rolled their eyes outright. I guess inside-political-baseball-players expected she would retire gracefully and leave Salud and Helene to fight to the death, with Das also supposedly chomping at the bit. That scenario probably has the Democratic Central Committee sweating, on the inside, but if people are asking when is she going to finally retire, damn it…well, maybe that got back to her.

Laura-Capps-Photo-2-e1376420940682Now, I am decidedly against shoving a woman off the stage just because she’s gotten older. I love Hillary and Madonna, in that order. But that sentiment that Lois has passed the sell-by date is newly bolstered by rumors swirling that she’s planning to abdicate while still in office, to hand the seat to her daughter, Laura Capps, via a special appointment by Governor Brown.

The idea of a Capps dynastic lock on the 24th Congressional seat is going down about as smoothly as deep-fried fork with Dems and Republicans alike. But Laura Capps, pictured right, is suddenly everywhere.

Expect some very interesting developments on this front.

North County Flexes Its Muscle on Measure P. It’s old news that the 2010 census saw Santa Maria eclipse Santa Barbara in population, 100k vs 90k. The county supervisors redistricted appropriately in response, but I’ve wondered when we would see this shift reflected in one of those infamous North-vs-South County divides? Well, we’ve possibly just witnessed it with Measure P. The charge has been fairly leveled that Big Oil killed Measure P with $7 million in campaign spending. However, big campaign spending has failed here before, and the voting results indicate something a little more than just money might be at work. It appears that North County collectively voted their economic interests against the environmental ideology of the city of Santa Barbara, and prevailed. This may well be the first time we’ve seen the population shift translate into actual voting strength that flips the longstanding dynamic where South County idealism dictates to North County. If it is indeed the start of such a trend, then our county is headed into some very interesting times, to say the least.


Thanksgiving Holiday Proclamation

By Sharon Byrne

One Thanksgiving, our family, consisting of ex-Brits, cancelled Czechs, and 1st generation American kids, had a bit of a discussion on this American holiday. My father asked us if we knew which president had made Thanksgiving permanently a national holiday?

First-Thanksgiving-LincolnI guessed Abraham Lincoln, surprising him. After all, wasn’t it mostly a northern celebration, originating with the Pilgrims in 1621? Wouldn’t earlier presidents have proclaimed Thanksgivings? And indeed they had. Washington and Adams both proclaimed Thanksgiving Day holidays in their respective presidencies. Jefferson skipped it, but Madison renewed it in 1814. From then on, states tended to set their own Thanksgiving holidays, often at different times of the year.

But Lincoln would be sorely tested at the task of holding the new nation together when it erupted into strife before even turning 100. What other president would have desperately needed to remind Americans of their beginnings in braving a long sea voyage and carving a new life out of the wild forests of the New World? What better way to remind Americans that they are first and foremost Americans, than by remembering that hard won first feast, and calling everyone in the nation to do the same? Making it a permanent, official holiday would evoke one American People to celebrate our origins and success created out of hard scrabble, in unity.

Now that, folks, is politics at its finest. At this time of reds vs blues, coast vs flyover states, the 99%, and other internal divisions in our nation, we might do well to remember we’ve been divided before, but our union held. We might also want to give thanks that these present divisions aren’t accompanied by military occupation of our homes and cities, civil war and strife.

Here is the text of the Thanksgiving Holiday proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

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 voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!