Biden wishes Americans happy, closer-to-normal Thanksgiving

Bidens spent the holiday visiting US service members and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

President Joe Biden greets members of the US Coast Guard stationed at Brant Point in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on Thursday. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Thursday wished Americans a happy and closer-to-normal Thanksgiving, the second in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Biden welcomed the return of holiday traditions by millions of families, including his own.

“As we give thanks for what we have, we also keep in our hearts those who have been lost and those who have lost so much,” the president said in a video-taped greeting recorded with his wife, Dr Jill Biden, at the White House.

They then travelled to Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the holiday.

On the island, the Bidens visited the US Coast Guard station at Brant Point to meet personnel and hold an online chat with US service members from around the world.

“I’m not joking when I say I’m thankful for these guys,” the president said, referring to the coast guard members standing ramrod straight before him on the grounds as he departed.

Reporters were kept out of the room for Mr Biden’s online remarks, apparently because of tight space in the building.

Well-wishers waved and cheered as his motorcade navigated the island’s narrow paved and cobblestone streets to and from the coast guard compound.

Mr Biden, whose late son Beau was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, said he had watched US service members in action around the world, from the South China Sea and Iraq and Afghanistan to South America.

He said when foreigners wonder what America is, “they don’t see us here", meaning civilians.

“They see them,” he said of members of the coast guard and the other branches of the US military. “It makes me proud.”

From Nantucket, the Bidens also called in to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, briefly bantering on air with NBC broadcaster Al Roker.

Shut out a year ago, spectators lined the route in Manhattan as about 8,000 participants joined the parade. Parade employees and volunteers had to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and wear masks.

Mr Biden and his wife have spent Thanksgiving in Nantucket since before they were married in 1977 because they were looking for a way out of choosing whose family to spend it with.

They did not visit in 2015 after Beau’s death that year from brain cancer at the age of 46, or in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic ended large family gatherings.

Mr Biden instead dined at home in Delaware last year with his wife, daughter Ashley and her husband.

But this year, the president joined the millions of Americans who are celebrating the holiday with big groups of loved ones.

Mr Biden’s entire family flew up with him on Tuesday night on Air Force One to resume the Thanksgiving tradition.

There was his wife; son Hunter and his wife Melissa and their toddler Beau; daughter Ashley; and grandchildren Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie and young Hunter, along with Naomi’s fiance, Peter Neal.

Naomi and her fiance rode bicycles along a local path just before her grandfather’s SUV departed the secluded home where the family is staying.

The home belongs to David Rubenstein, a billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of the Carlyle Group private equity firm.

Mr Biden’s visit, his first as president, is markedly different from his previous holidays in Nantucket when he was a US senator and later vice president. In those days he might have been seen walking around downtown.

Mr Biden lost much of his freedom to move around on his own when he became president and now travels with a large group of security personnel and White House officials.

His every public move is closely watched by the US Secret Service and other law enforcement.

Dr Biden was heard telling the coast guard members that she would see them again on Friday night at Nantucket’s annual Christmas tree lighting, another Biden tradition.

“We’re all going together,” she said of her family. The tree-lighting ceremony is where Beau Biden proposed to his wife, Hallie, in 2001. They were wed on the island the following year.

Mr Biden is expected to return to the White House on Sunday.

Updated: November 25, 2021, 10:51 PM