WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama wished Americans on Thursday a happy Thanksgiving and urged the nation to move forward as one while remembering people in need of help.
With families across the country set to enjoy the traditional turkey dinners that mark the annual public holiday — first celebrated by pilgrims who fled religious persecution in England — Obama said not everyone was so fortunate.
“As we prepare to gather around our dinner tables, there are families in the northeast who don’t have that luxury,” he said, referring to tens of thousands of citizens in New York and New Jersey reeling from superstorm Sandy.
“Many of them have lost everything… homes, possessions, even loved ones. And it will be a long time before life goes back to normal,” he said of Sandy, which crashed into the US last month, killing 43 people in New York City alone, causing widespread damage and leaving thousands without power.
In his weekly message, brought forward by 48 hours on account of the holiday season, Obama also sought a semblance of political unity after a rancorous and bitterly divisive election campaign that saw him win a second White House term.
“Thanksgiving is a chance to put it all in perspective — to remember that, despite our differences, we are and always will be Americans first and foremost,” said Obama, who trumped Republican rival Mitt Romney on November 6.
The president, a Democrat, also heaped praise on US armed forces personnel serving around the world. “To all our service members it is my honor to be your Commander-in-Chief. And from our family to yours, happy Thanksgiving,” he said.