The Continental Congress of 1777 issued the first national proclamation of Thanksgiving
. It set aside December 18, one week before Christmas, as a day of corporate gratitude. Almost all of the proclamation is conveyed in a single, 373-word sentence:
Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success:
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the 18th day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise; that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all blessings, independence and peace; that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labor of the husbandman, that our land may yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under his nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
This text is fertile ground for reflection. For now, I merely want to pause over two phrases: “that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor” and that Almighty God “take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue, and piety, under his nurturing hand.” May we not indeed make those our own words?
I share gratitude with you for blessings that have accompanied us during the world’s travail these last several months. I join you in dedication to a mission not of our own making, but in response to God’s call. And I hope that we might enjoy the nurturing hand of the Lord over our efforts to educate students, an endeavor “so necessary for . . . true liberty, virtue, and piety.” Happy Thanksgiving and Advent blessings to you all.
In a spirit of gratitude, please let me note a few further things deserving attention:
• Distinguished Scholars Day, our first major student recruitment event of the year, is planned for Tuesday, December 15 from 7:30-8:45 p.m. This year’s DSD will accommodate up to 125 students in a Zoom presentation adapted from last year: But the Greatest of These Is? Love, Longing, and Happiness in Film, Philosophy, and the Christian Tradition
. Many thanks to the numerous faculty and staff whose planning and service promises to make a success of the evening.
• While not yet complete, our fourth annual selection process for the Getterman Scholars Program
has already resulted in noteworthy achievements. From a record pool of 438 applications from the top 1% of college-bound seniors, 38 students advanced as finalists and will participate in personal interviews next month. Over 70% of the finalists hail from out of state, continuing our pattern of increasing national visibility. They also bring wide-ranging academic interests to the table, including Asian studies, business, education, engineering, law, math, medicine, philosophy, theatre, and more. To the dozen faculty and staff members who joined me in reviewing applications—thank you, truly and sincerely, for your contributions.
• Among 24 students initiated into Phi Beta Kappa
last month, 10 were from the HC. If you know the following students, please express your personal congratulations to them for their invitation into a prestigious academic honor society: Ethan Bryant, Grayson Elizabeth Danciu, Amanda Davis, Kailey Davis, Caroline Ann Hughes, Jamie LeVie, Madeleine Nelson, Mary Scott, Lillian Tia, and Benjamin Young.
• Ten percent of Baylor’s undergraduates completed an entirely online schedule of courses this fall. Many of these students struggled, and we surely need to support them better in future semesters. Encouragement can be found, however, in students’ identification of faculty and staff who did “a good job of helping them to be successful.” A host of our HC faculty and staff were singled out for students’ special praise, with six mentioned three or more times by students: Erika Abel
, Candi Cann
, Ginger Hanchey
, Victor Hinojosa
, Sarah-Jane Murray
, and Mike Whitenton
. Congratulations and thank you, colleagues, for your efforts to help our all-online students receive a quality of education in which we can take pride.
• During a time of cancelled events and social distancing, the School of Music is carrying on its wonderful tradition of music-making in the form of a Countdown to Christmas
. Each day of December through the 24th, the SoM will release a brief recording of music to enjoy in the season of Advent. In the various vocal and instrumental ensembles, and among featured soloists as well, you’ll find honors students well represented. More than that, however, you’ll hear the sounds of an indomitable Christian hope that keeps on playing, singing, and performing for the God who is always with us. I hope you listen and find yourselves uplifted.
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University
baylor.edu/honorscollege | 254.710.7689