In light of President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, I decided to revisit the first State of the Union Address from President George Washington.
By my reading, President Washington’s address was less than 9 minutes long. While it has become a modern convenience that the presidential budget address and state of the union address be combined, the first state of the union focuses on the highest priorities and lacks the laundry list of spending initiatives that we see on TV.
My favorite part of President Washington’s address expounded upon the importance of knowledge and education as a foundation for our experiment in free government:
Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impressions so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours it is proportionably essential.
To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways – by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last – and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.
Today, when we gaze into the maul of the federal Leviathan, we should understand that it is the failure of our education system that has accelerated our decay by lobotomizing the citizenry.
While the full text of President Washington’s address is available on-line, I have created a video with a reading of that speech.