Monday, April 30, 2012

Ode to our Nation

It was the 30th of April, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, when George Washington was inaugurated into office as the First President of the United States.  It is interesting to compare this important date in our nation's history to the current state of our political affairs.  As 44th
President, Barack Obama is the first black man in 233 years to hold this lofty position, elected under the tenet of an 'unwavering believe in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose.'  To contrast this with the election of 1789 it is important to note there was no popular vote at that time.  As such, the Electoral College chose the candidates with each college member casting two votes, for a total of 69.  Washington was elected unanimously, followed by John Adams who served as the first Vice President.  It was Commander-in-Chief Washington's ability to lead the Continental Army to victory over England during the Revolutionary War from 1775-1783 that earned him the highest acclaim and respect within the new nation.   His influence in the writing of the Constitution (1787) contributed to the popular title  'Father of his Country' as he won acceptance for his leadership style and his vision.  He ranks third amongst the most influential US Presidents, behind Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that political parties would NOT be formed, fearing conflict would undermine Republicanism.  He believed the United States of America should be built along 'Republican' lines using federal power to effect change.  He sought a national government to 'preserve liberty, improve infrastructure, open the Western lands, promote commerce, found a permanent Capital, reduce regional tensions and promote a spirit of American nationalism.' Slavery was opposed on moral and economic grounds and as such he was the only Founding Father to free all his slaves upon his death in 1799.  His eulogy honored him as the "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." 

George Washington -  symbol for liberation and nationalism;  have we honored his vision?


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