On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation that would serve to formally reserve the last Thursday of each November for the American tradition of Thanksgiving with the following words:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. ……They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”A part of his message is as applicable today as it was in 1863. We are still a nation torn apart. There is still needless bloodshed and inequality across racial lines, yet at the close of a second year amidst a global pandemic our resources as a nation remain plenty. As a nation we have much to be thankful for and our society has served many well, but there are still many that do not have the same access, opportunities, or in some cases human rights. On the eve of Thanksgiving it is a time for gratitude, but also for reflection. For the blessings and privileges we give thanks for we must also not “forget the source from which they come.” A part of giving thanks and gratitude should be recognizing how the system that may yield wealth and prosperity to some denies the same to others. From that recognition comes the question how can we do better?
Social equity concepts come from this same fundamental inquiry into how can we make this system benefit everyone, not just those privileged enough. The dialogue in our nation occurring right now comes after decades of unequal and unacceptable treatment of many for decades. The conversations are hard and the problems seem unsolvable but we are moving forward. The only way we keep moving forward to “heal the wounds of the nation” is by acknowledging privilege and continuing to ask “am I doing enough?”.
A part of answering this question for our firm was the establishment of HB Communities for Change, a program to foster and assist diverse clients on a pro bono basis. Our cannabis practice has launched a social equity initiative in concert with this program to assist diverse social equity applicants in the cannabis space to acquire access to legal resources. I have been fortunate enough to work with several of these very promising businesses and speak to many of these applicants at community events like the city of Denver Social Equity Applicant Resource Fair. These programs are merely a start and a part of what we can do, where the changes begin. I am looking forward to delving into issues surrounding racial inequities in cannabis on a panel hosted by the Food and Drug Law Institute on December 2. For now, on this eve before Thanksgiving I am asking these questions of myself, “how can I do more?” and “how can I do better as an ally?”.