A National Day of Thanksgiving

11/24/2012 7:00 AM

I’m a huge admirer of Abraham Lincoln. I love his story — his humble beginnings, his self-education and his rise to the highest office in the land.

Lincoln was one of America’s most visionary leaders and powerful coalition builders. He was truly a man among men and one of the greatest Americans who ever lived.

I was planning to be one of the first people in line to see the new “Lincoln” movie when it came out this month.

Now everyone knows the origins of Thanksgiving, but my favorite Thanksgiving story has to do with President Lincoln during the heart of the American Civil War.

In 1863, our nation was in the midst of the greatest crisis in its brief history — the dissolution of the union and a war to set other men, women and children free.

The year 1863 was one of setbacks for the Union, including a rout in the Battle of Chancellorsville, but also of triumphs, including great victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

On Oct. 3, 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a national day of Thanksgiving. As a nation, we were divided and in the midst of a serious crisis, but Lincoln believed that our country still had a lot to be thankful for. History has since proven him right.

What I admire most about Lincoln is his optimism, even while facing great adversity.

Today, many of our fellow New Yorkers are suffering in the wake of one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the eastern seaboard. Many have lost everything and need something to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage all New Yorkers to show their optimism in the face of adversity by donating to the Empire State Relief Fund. This fund is dedicated to providing resources to help people recover from Hurricane Sandy and rebuild and restore their homes.

Contribute at https://empirestaterelief.zissousecure.com/contribute or send an email to info<\@>empirestaterelief.com.

New York is in the midst of a great challenge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our fellow New Yorkers are working together to meet this challenge head on. Farmers, many of whom were already ravaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, are donating their goods to the relief efforts. Many others are giving precious dollars and, more importantly, precious time to the relief efforts.

There is much work to do and the cost in resources and time will be tremendous. With all these factors in play, every minute counts.

But we still have reason for optimism. New Yorkers are strong and adaptable and willing to lend one another a helping hand.

As New Yorkers and our nation come together this Thanksgiving, I hope we can all take comfort in the eternal optimism of Abraham Lincoln.

“I am a firm believer in the people,” Lincoln said. “If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.”

I wish all New Yorkers a Happy Thanksgiving.

Darrel J. Aubertine is commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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