As a fifth-generation Montanan, I didn’t choose Montana—Montana chose me. Over 100 years ago, my great-great-grandmother lived on a homestead 23 miles east of Conrad, and that’s how my family made it to the Last Best Place. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
There are many things that make America an extraordinary place to live, and the Thanksgiving tradition is one of them. It’s an integral part of our unique American history. For the past 400 years we have gathered with our families, friends and neighbors to thank God for all He has given us. But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a “Day of Thanksgiving and Worship” that we celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
I read Lincoln’s proclamation before my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Lincoln speaks of the bounty of the fields, peace with foreign nations, and the health of a growing population while constantly grappling with the Civil War. He writes: “No human council has devised these great things, nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in wrath for our sins, nevertheless thought of mercy. It seemed fitting and proper to me that they should be recognized with one heart and one voice in solemn, reverent and grateful reverence and gratitude by the entire American people.” And we’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving ever since.
Living in Montana, it’s not hard to find things that fill us with gratitude and remind us of God’s grace. I am grateful for the beautiful public lands of our state. I am thankful for the wheat fields and their bright yellow color. I am grateful for our Montana farmers and ranchers who put food on our tables. I am grateful for our first responders who risked their lives to protect our families and communities, and for our Montana veterans who answered the call of duty. I am grateful for the opportunity to wake up each day and minister to the people of Montana. I am grateful to have grown up in the greatest state, in the greatest nation in the world. Most of all I am grateful for my family – my sweet wife Cindy, our four children and our four grandchildren.
The past few years have been difficult for many Montanans because of the pandemic and inflation. As we sit at our Thanksgiving tables surrounded by those we love, may we recommit ourselves to our great state, our extraordinary nation, and to one another—for through the ups and downs, Montanans pull together—and so do we continue to keep Montana as the last best place.
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. It is an honor to serve as a United States Senator from Montana.
Republican Steve Daines represents Montana in the US Senate.