By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me working from Northern California, where I’m preparing to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Even though Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I woke up feeling particularly grateful for the incredible team I work with – from the staff members to our leadership to our network broker/owners to our agents. You deserve to be thanked today and every day for your hard work and dedication.
Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays. I just love the idea that each year, we take time out of our hectic schedules and busy lives to sit back, relax and eat turkey with stuffing. I’m also a fan of Thanksgiving because there’s a fascinating history behind how the holiday began, and I’m captivated by the narrative of Thanksgiving almost as much as I am by the spirit of the festive feast.
Origins of the holiday can be traced back to Oct. 24, 1788 when future leader Sarah Josepha Hale was born in Newport, NH. Hale would grow up to become a famous fiction writer, activist and poet – she even penned “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – and in 1837, became editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, covering topics from women’s education to the rights of women as property owners. She’s also largely responsible for turning Thanksgiving into a national holiday.
At the time Hale was writing, Thanksgiving was celebrated on different days and different times at the discretion of each state. Sometimes it happened in October, sometimes in January but Hale knew that celebrating Thanksgiving on one day, together, would strengthen national pride and create a strong American tradition.
For 17 years, she tirelessly campaigned to have Thanksgiving occur on the same day each year. She even wrote to five Presidents until finally, her voice was heard. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 that set the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving.” Then in 1941, the holiday became fixed to the fourth Thursday in November by an act of the United States Congress.
In the name of history, a little more than two years ago on Oct. 22, 2017 at Levi’s Stadium, my pal Dwight “The Catch” Clark was recognized by the San Francisco 49ers in a touching ceremony at halftime during the 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys game. I was lucky enough to be a San Francisco 49ers fan in the 1980s and watched Dwight play for my favorite team. He’s the owner of five Super Bowl rings—two as a player and three in management—a two-time All Pro, Sports Illustrated NFL Player of the Year in 1982, and had 506 receptions in his career. Of course, his most famous catch was “The Catch” when on Jan. 10, 1982 Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by 49ers quarterback Joe Montana. The 49ers won the NFC Championship game that day, and went on to win their first of five Super Bowl Championships.
Just after the Levi’s Stadium halftime honor, on Nov. 9, 2017, I was fortunate to accept an award on Dwight’s behalf at the SAP Center where he was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Dwight, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony, spoke in a poignant video thanking his fans, his family and all those who supported him along the way.
It strikes me as a fitting coincidence that President Lincoln proclaimed the official day of Thanksgiving because I also quoted Lincoln during the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame awards ceremony: “No man stands as tall as when he bends down to help a child,” Lincoln once said. For me, when I think of that eternal quote, I think of Dwight Clark. I don’t think of The Catch that he had to jump so high to make, I think of the many times I watched him bend over to help a child in need. Dwight was an integral force in helping the Intero Foundation, which provides resources to children in need and raised more than $4 million in grants and support.
So, what’s the message? Dwight’s life was a testament to the fact that the true meaning of thankfulness is inextricably tied into the idea of selflessness. When we express gratitude, we’re really recognizing our role is to serve others and through our actions, lift them higher so they’re more easily able to reach their goals. No matter who we’re helping – a child in need, a co-worker, a teammate or a friend – what matters more than the thanks is that as leaders, we’re forever giving.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.