Daniel Florien writes in Unreasonable Faith:
This year was the first year that an American president has omitted a direct reference to God in the Thanksgiving proclamation:
The beneficence shown by God to America is a theme that traditionally defines the Thanksgiving holiday, and this theme is strongly emphasized in the original Thanksgiving Day proclamations and consistently acknowledged even by modern presidents.
Obama’s unprecedented proclamation, however, only makes indirect mention of God by quoting George Washington, stating: “Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed ‘by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.’”
The proclamation goes on to call Thanksgiving Day “a unique national tradition we all share” that unites people as “thankful for our common blessings.”
“This is a time for us to renew our bonds with one another, and we can fulfill that commitment by serving our communities and our Nation throughout the year,” it continues.
All other presidential Thanksgiving proclamations directly refer to “God,” “Providence,” or another appellation for the divine being.
But Obama’s historic decision to avoid directly mentioning God in the Thanksgiving proclamation doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Earlier this year Obama similarly made history on Inaguration Day by explicitly referencing “non-believers” in his speech, which, according to USA Today, was the first time in history that a President had done so. Obama has also said on more than one occasion that the United States is “not a Christian nation.”
The Washington quote makes this claim a bit inaccurate — that is a direct reference to God, even though it is in a quote — but there is a difference between the reference being in a quote than in Obama’s own words. Regardless, Obama seems to be making some progress including us “non-believers” in our own country for once.