ISSUE | THANKSGIVING

President's message

Rooted in a story of generosity and partnership, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear. Today, as we give of ourselves in service to others and spend cherished time with family and friends, we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us. We also honor the men and women in uniform who fight to safeguard our country and our freedoms so we can share occasions like this with loved ones, and we thank our selfless military families who stand beside and support them each and every day. . . .

In the same spirit of togetherness and thanksgiving that inspired the Pilgrims and the indigenous Wampanoag, we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country's story. Each of us brings our own traditions, cultures, and recipes to this quintessential American holiday - whether around dinner tables, in soup kitchens, or at home cheering on our favorite sports teams - but we are all united in appreciation of the bounty of our nation.

Let us express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without. Together, we can secure our founding ideals as the birthright of all future generations of Americans.

|Barack Obama, Washington

Let turkeys live

While President Obama is pardoning two turkeys for Thanksgiving, every one of us can exercise that same presidential power by choosing a nonviolent Thanksgiving observance that spares a turkey's life.

And here are some good reasons:

You can brag about pardoning a turkey - like Obama.

You truly are what you eat; who wants to be a "butterball"?

Fruits and vegetables don't have to carry government warning labels.

You won't sweat the environment-and-food-resources-

devastation guilt trip.

You won't spend a sleepless night wondering how the turkey lived and died.

Your body will appreciate a holiday from saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones.

You won't have to call the Meat and Poultry Hotline to keep your family out of the emergency room.

Seriously, this Thanksgiving, let's give thanks for our good fortune, health, and happiness with a life-affirming, cruelty-free feast of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Our own dinner will feature a soy- or wheat-based roast, mashed potatoes, stuffed squash, candied yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

|Paul Dickinson, Philadelphia

Opt for natural flavors

When Native Americans and Pilgrims broke bread over their first Thanksgiving dinner, they were celebrating their first successful harvest, which they had toiled over all summer. Nowadays, we give thanks to food companies that toil all year to produce "convenience" foods that make Thanksgiving dinner prep easy, effortless, and tasteless - hence the recent popularity of brining a turkey for hours in sugar and salt before roasting or deep-frying.

Don't forget the trans fats, food dyes, pesticides, and preservatives that can send you into kidney failure. Factor in antibiotic-treated turkeys that are fed genetically engineered grain saturated with pesticides, and you've got a dinner that leaves you wondering what food should you be thankful for.

Fortunately, the movement toward sustainably produced cuisine offers alternatives that are healthier for the environment and the consumer, build the economy, and provide satisfying flavor and nutrition. Buy a pasture-raised, heritage-breed turkey from a local farmer; organic cranberries that have never seen the inside of a can; and certified organic potatoes, greens, and other vegetables at a farmers' market or food co-op. Enjoy.

|Phyllis Rubin, Wynnewood

Help fight hunger 12 months a year

Almost one in seven people in the United States does not know where his or her next meal will come from. That's nearly 50 million Americans facing food insecurity on a daily basis.

Food insecurity is often highlighted during the holidays, but we all must continue the fight against hunger when attention drifts elsewhere. It is not always easy to know when someone is affected by hunger, which affects people of all ages and walks of life.

In the Philadelphia area, Citizens Bank has teamed up with the Phillies to meet a critical need for hunger relief with Phans Feeding Families. In its first four years, the initiative has helped Philabundance provide more than a half-million meals to families.

Last year, our Citizens Helping Citizens Fight Hunger program provided funding to food banks and pantries that paid for about 3.6 million meals to individuals across the bank's 11-state footprint.

By raising awareness, volunteering time, calling on local government representatives, and making donations, everyone can make a difference. As we enter this season of giving, let us pledge to make an ongoing and long-term commitment to ending hunger.

|Dan Fitzpatrick, president, Citizens Bank, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

Longer, healthier lives with Obamacare

The third open-enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace is underway through Jan. 31, and we have a lot to be thankful for as we look back over the first five years of the Affordable Care Act. More than 17.6 million people have gained health insurance, and many are thankful for the peace of mind and financial security that insurance provides. Preventive services and early treatment are saving lives, and we're thankful for those lives.

Thanks to the ACA:

Young adults under 26 can stay on their parents' health plans.

You can't be denied coverage or charged more for preexisting conditions.

Women can't be charged more for health insurance just because they're female.

We're closing the Medicare prescription-drug "donut hole."

There are no annual or lifetime out-of-pocket limits.

To enroll, go to HealthCare.gov or your state's Marketplace. If you're eligible for Medicaid, you'll find out when you apply.

As we reflect on the last few years and look forward to the future, we can all be thankful that as a nation, we will have longer and healthier lives.

|Joanne Corte Grossi, Region 3 director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Philadelphia, joanne.grossi@hhs.gov

To shop or not to shop? That's the question

Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and HomeGoods are choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving so their employees and customers can spend time with families and friends. Mega-retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, and JCPenney will be open for business.

Each side points to a vision of America and its values. I know which I prefer. How about you?

|Marie Conn, Hatboro, mconn56@yahoo.com

Thankful for rejection of pipeline

I'm thankful that President Obama halted the Keystone XL pipeline ("Obama cancels Keystone pipeline," Nov. 7). I felt strongly enough about that pipeline to commit civil disobedience to stop it.

It would have enabled the dirtiest, most polluting oil to be sent through the heartland of the country for export. It would have meant the possibility of dangerous leaks and spills, and would have contributed to global climate change.

We are already seeing the effects of our reliance on fossil fuels in the form of superstorms, droughts, and floods in the United States and around the world. So it's clear that we need to leave most of the remaining coal, oil, and gas in the ground, shift to solar and wind power, and improve energy efficiency.

I'm glad that when U.S. representatives go to Paris for next week's international climate talks, the president's rejection of the pipeline will demonstrate that the nation is serious about making the transition to clean energy.

|Sue Edwards, Swarthmore