TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Jonathan Steen on Nov 1, 2014

Journal Issue Date: Nov 2014

Journal Name: November 2014 - Vol. 50, No. 11

Thanksgiving is an American tradition dating back to 1621, when the Plymouth colonists and Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than 100 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. The first time we celebrated Thanksgiving
under the new Constitution was on Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, after President George Washington issued a proclamation at the request of the first Federal Congress asking that the president of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving.

Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, although the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each year on the last Thursday of November. In 1941, congress passed a joint resolution signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Thanksgiving Day holiday we continue to celebrate today.

While Thanksgiving Day has not always been the fourth Thursday in November, we have consistently carried on the tradition of Thanksgiving throughout our history, taking time to reflect, count our blessings and give thanks. As I reflect on all the blessings in my life — family, friends, health and so many others — I am mindful that so many of these blessings come from the rights, privileges and opportunities we have as citizens of the United States. I am thankful for living in such a great nation and I am thankful for lawyers and all the good work they do in making our nation great.

Lawyers play a vital role in preserving our government and the very foundation upon which our great nation was built, the rule of law. Lawyers are trained to think critically and resolve conflict through a variety of methods from negotiation to mediation and arbitration, to representing litigants in trials.

Lawyers serve our communities in many ways. Prosecutors, public defenders and criminal defense lawyers help protect our society from individuals who commit crimes while at the same time helping protect individuals from unjust application of our criminal laws. Lawyers represent individuals and businesses in resolving civil disputes. Lawyers also provide advice to assist people in their business and personal matters, and many other areas.

Lawyers also serve our country. Lawyers serve in the military and provide representation and advice for those who defend our country. Lawyers serve in the US attorney’s office, representing our nation in domestic and foreign matters. Lawyers serve as our judges, making up and administering the judicial branch of our government. All the many roles that lawyers serve strengthen our society, and for that I am thankful.

I am also thankful for the Tennessee Bar Association and all the good work it does in supporting lawyers in their work. Through its member services, programs, publications and continuing legal education the TBA provides outstanding value to lawyers and the profession.

Finally, I am thankful for you, fellow members of the TBA. You are the committee members who get the good work done in striving to continually improve our profession. You are the section members who share knowledge and ideas, and produce outstanding continuing legal education programs. You are the lawyers who help make access to justice possible for so many underserved citizens of our state. Your membership in our association is what makes the TBA so great. I am thankful for your membership, and I encourage you, as you take time this Thanksgiving Day to reflect, count your blessings and give thanks, to find new ways to be active in the TBA. As W. J. Cameron once said, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

Jonathan Steen Tennessee Bar Association President JONATHAN O. STEEN is a civil trial lawyer with Redding, Steen & Staton PC in Jackson. He is a past president of the TBA Young Lawyers Division.