To the Editor:
If George Washington was alive today, and someone asked him if he was a Democrat or a Republican, what would he say? Although he and I share some DNA, I do not presume to answer this question for him. However, in his Farewell Address, he offers an answer I believe he would offer again. George Washington was not a Democrat or a Republican. He was an American.
In his address, an open letter to the American people, Washington asked his countrymen to discourage and restrain “the spirit of party.” He wrote,
“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.”
He firmly opposed those who sought to divide Americans by their differences. In his day, small segments of the community sought to acquire influence by misrepresenting other segments. They sought power in turning people against one another. He believed this attitude, this us-against-them mentality, was wrong. It does an injustice to the unity which exists among Americans.
Instead, Washington encouraged Americans to look past their differences and focus on their commonalities. Granted, this was slightly easier in 1796. In his words, “with slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.” This is no longer the case. We are more diverse in these respects than perhaps ever before. However, this diversity makes Washington’s ultimate point even more important. In our Union,
“…all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource…”
In America, everyone survives by serving someone else. Whether we do so in a restaurant or in the oval office, our lives are inextricably intertwined. Our union, and the strength we derive from it, is the foundation on which our national prosperity is built.
In a recent speech, President Obama made an appeal to all Americans for a more respectful politics. Today, as in Washington’s time, a spirit of party threatens to distort our union. If he were alive today, George Washington would undoubtedly make the same point that he made in his farewell address. No matter what divides us, we are all Americans.
The writer notes that George Washington is his seventh-great uncle.