The 2019 Commemoration year is officially over, and it ended with the spirit of positivity and thanks! American Evolution held their final public event, the 400th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony of the First Official English Thanksgiving, on December 4th, 2019.
The ceremony was held at Jamestown Settlement to commemorate the first English Thanksgiving that happened 400 years ago in Virginia, not Massachusetts. On December 4, 1619, Captain John Woodlief and his crew on the “Margaret” arrived safely to the Virginia Colony at what is now known as Berkeley Plantation where they declared that day as a day of thanksgiving.
The event featured remarks from featured speaker Michelle Gielan, best-selling author, Executive Producer of “The Happiness Advantage” on PBS, and featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course.
The crowd got a happiness crash course from Gielan during her keynote speech where she discussed the impact of positive thinking and how it creates better health such as reducing symptoms of fatigue, headaches and more. She also discussed the impact of negative thinking and negativity around us. Gielan shared a study she conducted with Arianna Huffington, Founder of Huffington Post, where they discovered that just 3 minutes of negative news consumption in the morning can negatively affect our mood for the rest of the day. That negative messaging while you’re enjoying your cup of joe increases the chance of a bad day by 27% she said.
Gielan said that her main question that began her journey as a happiness researcher was “How can we talk about the negative in a way that honors it, but also allows us not to feel stuck and depleted; instead, leaves us energized and ready to take positive action to right wrongs that exist in our society?”
Before introducing Gielan, Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam gave special remarks.
“On this remembrance of the first Thanksgiving I am thankful that we may come together and talk about our American Evolution,” Northam said. “America’s story started here in Virginia, and as an educator I know this commemorative year has given us an extraordinary opportunity to research, discuss and teach all aspects of our rich and complicated 400-year legacy.”
After much reflection, Northam gave everyone the directions to, “lead a rich, diverse and bountiful legacy to the children of the Commonwealth and the next 400 years”
The special ceremony also included reflections on the original three cultures of Virginia from Dr. Rex Ellis, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs Emeritus at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; H. Graham Woodlief, Jr., President of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival and descendant of Captain John Woodlief; and Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy Tribe.
They each gave a unique and meaningful perspective from each culture on this commemorative event and the impact the original Thanksgiving has made on Virginia and America today.
Adkins shared some facts about indigenous celebrations of thanks. “While Virginia’s indeginous people did not gather at Berkeley in 1619, they had acts of practice Thanksgiving celebrations for many years prior to December 4th, 1619. In fact, fall celebrations centered around thanks to the creator for the bounties harvested from mother earth,” he said.
The event gave everyone a chance to reflect on how far Virginia and America has come in it’s 400-year history and how much farther it can go, with the willingness of all to spread happiness and positivity.