WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, just re-elected to a second term after a contentious election season, wished Americans a happy Thanksgiving on Thursday and urged the nation to move forward as one while remembering people in need of help.
Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, brought forward by 48 hours on account of the holiday season, that the country has “just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy and vital to our democracy.” While the election required voters to make choices, Obama said Thanksgiving offers “a chance to put it all in perspective — to remember that, despite our differences, we are and always will be Americans first and foremost.
In the opposition address, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said Republicans are ready to work with Obama to avert impending tax increases, big spending cuts and other problems.
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.
The president, a Democrat, also heaped praise on US armed forces personnel serving around the world.
“To all our service members it is my honour to be your Commander-in-Chief. And from our family to yours, happy Thanksgiving,” he said.
Airports, train stations and highways were expected to remain busy as Americans made their way home to reconnect with family and friends for Thanksgiving — although some reunions might be bittersweet because of the damage and displacement caused by Superstorm Sandy.
For some, the once-sacrosanct harvest feast now starts the holiday shopping season — and store openings keep getting earlier.
Black Friday now starts on Thanksgiving day itself at many national stores and some shoppers eagerly race from their dinner tables to line up for bargains, delaying their second helpings until they’ve purchased the latest toys or electronic devices.
The popular Macy’s thanksgiving Day Parade, attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on television, was scheduled to kick off in New York City.
This year, the giant balloons were to welcome Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf.
A new version of Hello Kitty was to be included while Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy remained in the lineup.
Real life stars were to include Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of “The X Factor.” Other cities planned to have showy marching bands, cartoon character balloons, and musical extravaganzas, as well.
Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit were among the big cities hosting parades.