February 17, 2014

President Washington's Timeless Insight

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

With the help of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, President George Washington presented his Farwell Address to the nation.  According to the United States Senate Historical Office, the Farwell Address was written at a time when President Washington was worn out by burdens of the presidency and attacks of political foes.  His principal concern was for the survival of the eight-year-old Constitution, and he believed that the stability of the new republic was threatened by the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism and interference by foreign powers in the nation's domestic affairs.  It contains President Washington's observations he envisioned being reviewed regularly to help ensure the well-being of future Americans.

In his Farwell Address, President Washington wrote, "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; . . . The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism . . . With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.  You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together.  The independence and liberty you posses are the work of joint councils and joint efforts-common dangers, sufferings, and successes."  

President Washington's devotion to the nation he long led and defended is clear in his message to our country.  He aspired for our resilience as a nation of individuals who seek a common strength.  President Washington recommended "frequent review" of this advice, and his recommendation has become a tradition in the U.S. Senate.  For more than 120 years, Washington's Farwell Address has been read in the Senate annually in observation of his birthday. 

As we tackle our national challenges and recognize the Presidents' Day holiday, we should reflect on the guidance of our Founding Fathers, who loved our country as we do and worked hard to build and preserve it.  I share the frustration I hear from fellow Idahoans on the divisiveness in our nation's capital.  Today's leaders should reflect on President Washington's words and work to advance needed reforms without resorting to petty acrimony.  We simply must work together for the betterment of our country.  

We should follow the examples of the great Americans who have worked so hard on our behalf by joining together to strengthen our country.  Honest debate is healthy, but we must not let our disagreements hinder progress.  Then, we, as President Washington sought, can realize the "influence of good laws under a free government-the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors and dangers."   

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