I was conversing with a friend recently who inquired about my thoughts on the political circus in Washington D.C. around presidential impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives and the presidential trial in the U.S. Senate. No doubt this is a source of debate and contention throughout the nation, just as it has been since the election of the current administration. And although this is only the third President in our nation’s history to actually suffer indictment, also known as impeachment, the debate and contention in the 21st century is as old and familiar as the nation itself.
The use of the political trigger word ‘Washington D.C.’ got me thinking about the great person whom the U.S. Capitol city is named after: George Washington, the first Chief Executive of the United States of America.
Probably, hopefully……the vast majority by far of our nation’s citizens know about George Washington and his mantle of ‘Father of Our Country’, and have a basic awareness of his role in the founding of our nation. I recall my own gradual learning more about President Washington during my early school years and the very rudimentary study of U.S. History in high school. It is truly a shame that the classroom subjects of ‘History’ as well as ‘Civics’ was looked upon with boredom and disdain by myself and I believe most students. However, the real reason for that is the absolutely boring manner in which this fascinating subject matter was presented, typically rote memorization of names and calendar dates of significant events such as July 4, 1776 etc.
It took a very long time, and a surprising, accidental discovery for me, to realize the true value and importance of digging deeper into the rich history of America, particularly the Revolutionary era and in the lives and work of incredible people like George Washington. This man in particular is the real reason, on so many levels, that our nation came into existence, and has survived and literally thrived, so far well into the 21st century. Now we have reached this moment in time where the American people are once again faced with resolving a crisis, whose seeds have the potential to do serious damage to the republic.
This is where the words of President George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation in September 1796, after eight years of serving as the first President, truly demonstrate the value of his life, his works, and his words, most remarkably his prescience concerning the challenges to come for our nascent and fledgling nation.
I have included here a link to his full farewell address so that one can read the entire text, but one part of his address that rings so importantly today concerns the need to adhere to the rule of law. The U.S. Constitution, which enshrined in our laws the office of Chief Executive, established the rule of law that Washington so sincerely and earnestly implored all of our citizens, no matter their station, to honor and respect.
Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
“Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”
These are powerful words that have acted and continue to act as a bastion of strength in ensuring that ALL people, particularly our elected leaders in whom we entrust with our freedom and security, take on and embrace the sacred obligation that President George Washington so elegantly and forcefully taught us to embrace as well.
I urge you to read President Washington’s farewell address in full because it is full of wise, coherent and highly relevant insight to the past, present and future understanding and maintaining of our freedom and democracy.
I believe that if we as a nation continue to honor and respect the law, the Constitution, as well as each other, even the contentious, partisan and seemingly intractable issue of impeachment will be resolved in a manner that would surely please and reassure the Father of Our Country, George Washington!