News-Miner opinion: Nov. 22, 1939, the day before Thanksgiving, was a seemingly quiet day in Fairbanks.
The front page of that afternoon’s edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner contained a few items of local and Alaska interest, such as newly appointed territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening announcing he was quitting his post that day in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. and departing for his new duties in Alaska.
The inside pages included mining updates from the Fortymile Country, news about the start of night school, a federal public works grant to the city of Fairbanks, and, of course, numerous items about Thanksgiving.
The main news on the front page was of an evil sort — the unfolding developments of the early months of World War II.
It was amid that backdrop 80 years ago that the Daily News-Miner published this front-page message about the differing fortunes on the opposite sides of the globe and of thanks for, and recognition of, the powerful role of the United States among the world’s nations and what in the best and worst of times it is able to achieve for its people.
Doubt fills the hearts of millions of men and women this week. In hundreds of thousands of homes bewildered Americans making plans for the dear familiar feast of Thanksgiving are asking themselves: Why. Why Thanksgiving.
As human beings we would be callous to give thanks merely because we have been spared Europe’s sufferings. That would not be Thanksgiving but smugness and complacency.
Should we give thanks then because our November skies are happily empty? Because our children play tag instead of digging air raid shelters? Because our men-folk are safe with us on this day of days, secure at their own firesides? Because we have plenty on our tables?
Perhaps. All these things cannot fail to make us thankful.
But we in America must realize that, perhaps alone of all the peoples on the Earth, we have something at this moment which an unhappy world will be desperately in need of sharing in the years to come when the guns are silent. And in giving thanks for the plenitude of these spiritual values which we possess, we must resolve anew to treasure and cherish them against that time.
But we must do more than hope. The time will come when the calm counsels of America will be desperately needed to bring not only a just peace but a merciful peace so that the world may again and for all time turn its back on war.
And so, at this time, on Thanksgiving, it is not enough that we give thanks to the benevolent Providence that has spared us. In our hearts we pray that we may be permitted to hold fast to all those fruits of two thousand years of civilized endeavor: Peace, Democracy, Justice for men and all nations.
These things blossomed once in the western world. They will flower again, but only if we cherish the seeds, ready to cast them, when the time comes, on scarred and hungry soil.