Despite the official government holiday to honor George Washington, his historical date of birth occurs on February 22nd, unless one still uses the Julian calendar, which would date Washington’s birth on February 11th. With today being his “true” birthdate, it is a good thing to reflect on some words of wisdom from the Father of the county. A great amount of wisdom from Washington is densely packed into his 32-page “Farewell Address,” published in September, 1796.
Unfortunately, because of the density of the document, many Americans have not read through it to grasp the wisdom within. Yet, these represent the words of a man who dedicated his life to—and put his life and fortune on the line for—public service to his nation, and during the War for Independence, for only the ideal of a free nation. After he served for eight years as the first President of the United States, George Washington had some insights that are still relevant today and prove quite prophetic.
More specifically, there is an underlying wisdom that is quite relevant for the present day, especially in light of the rise in the intensity of hate that has spread like a cancer across America since the beginning of the new millenium. President Washington’s admonition to his country was to urge Americans to see themselves as Americans, not as members of political parties, or divergent factions from differing realms. And although many clear thinking citizens often focus on his prophetic warning against political parties, which Washington felt would undermine loyalty to country, his greatest advice may have been the simplest. Almost ignored is simple wisdom about loving liberty and the Union so much that one would be moved to fight for the precious freedoms that had been secured by the fight he led by the regular risk of his life. His words to urge Americans to love liberty, to love the nation. mean as much, or more today than in his day:
But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot but end with my life, and the apprehension of danger natural to that solicitude, urge me on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments; which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motives to bias his counsel …
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.
The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. (Emphasis added.)
President Washington’s “Farewell Address” to the American people has been regarded as one of the “world’s most remarkable documents” because it served as a humble notification from a man who was turning control of the nation over to others, and it offered a set of values that Washington hoped would assure the survival of a fledgling America.
In this sincere wisdom, Washington’s farewell should provide deep motivation for the people who love America, and who love freedom, to continue to cherish their rights. But, Freedom is no longer a spectator sport. The contemporary citizens within the “Silent Majority” need to realize that now, maybe more than ever, there is a genuine need to actively exercise their own freedoms, and to give voice to their love of freedom, their love of country. True Americans, who treasure liberty, need to rise up, speak out, and break the silence, or they may be restricted to “forever hold their peace.”