Our nation is truly at a crossroad in many senses of the word. Our leaders at all levels of government, as well as those of us who put them in office, would do well to read and heed the wise words of George Washington contained in his 1796 “Farewell Address.” Among many points made in this document, three stand out.
First, he voices strong words against the dangers of political factions and parties. He warns the “spirit of party” is not to be encouraged, “lest instead of warming, it should consume.” How true this is today with our dysfunctional, paralyzed Congress.
Secondly, Washington draws a clear connection between political prosperity, religion and morality. Listen to his words: “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Those in our country who promote freedom “from” religion would do well to read these words.
Lastly, Washington offers a strong caution regarding public debt. He states, “As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible ... avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt ... . The executions of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate.” He reminds that debt can be settled only by tax revenues and he points out that “no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.”
It is a true tragedy that many of our elected leaders seem not to be acquainted with the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. It is likewise a tragedy that our public education process does so little to advance this understanding.