George Washington first State of the Union address

On this day in 1790, President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address. Washington delivered the speech to Congress at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.

As was fitting for the new nation, Washington’s brief address stands as the shortest State of the Union address ever. What follows are a few excerpts from  to his “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Within our reach

“Still further to realize [your constituents’] expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined;”

Sure and secure

“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. …To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways… by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights;… to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last… .

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.”

Today, as during our founding, may we again seek the blessings of Providence through “exertion of [our] patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.”

George Washington first State of the Union address

Patton prayer

On this day in 1944, General George S. Patton, aka “Old Blood and Guts,” begins his bold strategy to relieve the Allied defenders of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Ultimately, his plan paid off, and his 3rd Army penetrated the German lines and pushed them east across the Rhine.

Notably, a couple weeks prior, 250,000 prayer cards were distributed to every soldier in his Third Army. The text of the two-sided card follows:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I Wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.
G.S. Patton, Jr, Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army.”

In everything

After all, as General Patton said just prior to their distribution:
“[B]etween the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything. That’s where prayer comes in.”

 

Patton prayer

Rosa Parks fingerprints

On this day in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is arrested and jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus. She was in the first row of the ‘black section’ when the driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white male passenger.

As a result, she is known as “The mother of the civil rights movement.”

Her act of civil disobedience led to a 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the boycott, Dr. King said:
“This is not a war between the white and the Negro but a conflict between justice and injustice. If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love.”

Then, in November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Rosa later wrote, “I felt the presence of God on the bus and heard His quiet voice as I sat there waiting for the police to take me to the station.”

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 and was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Proud to be an American

In 1996, she wrote this in response to a letter from a 13 year-old named Michael, who asked her about the changes she has seen during he 83 years:

“I am grateful to God for this long life. I am thankful that He has used me to fulfill some of His plans.

I am proud to be an American. America is a wonderful country. In just over 200 years, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we have come a long way. Slavery has been abolished. Child labor laws have been established as the law of the land. Women have the right to vote and have taken their places in politics, the arts, sciences, and business. I am proud to see that history and her story are coming together as one as we move ahead.

Our country is the model for every other developing country in the world for achieving justice and equality for its citizens. Our Constitution has lasted longer than any other constitution in modern history.

We cannot take these blessings for granted. We must share these gifts from God. Whether we are 13 or 83, we must show the world that we are able to correct our mistakes–including homelessness, poor race relations, and violence–and move forward to a better society. I know that we can. This nation has always overcome the obstacles it has faced.”

Certainly, then, we can all be proud to be American, like Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks fingerprints

Francis Scott Key By the dawn's early light

On this day in 1779, Francis Scott Key is born in Maryland. He was an attorney, author, and amateur poet. Of course, we know his name primarily because he penned the poem which later became the lyrics for our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

He also penned the following praiseful poem in 1832:

Lord, With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise thee
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows.
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise;
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wanderer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away;
Praise, with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him who saw they guilt-born fear,
And, the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express;
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign Thy supplicant’s prayer to bless;
Let Thy grace, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise.

Key was a Sunday school teacher at his church and also served as vice president of the American Sunday School Union. In addition, was an early supporter of the American Bible Society.

Morning and evening

Finally, what follows are a few excerpts from a letter he wrote to his children in 1812, shortly after making his will, to be read after his death:

“You have read your Bible: how God made us, what he requires of us, how Chirst died for us, how we must pray and strive to do everything right and to shun everything wrong.

Read your Bibles every morning and evening. Never forget your private prayers, both morning and evening, and throughout the day strive to think of God often and breathe a sincere supplication to Him for all things. … Do all possible good too all… everybody within your reach. … [D]o everything for God’s sake and consider yourselves always in his service.
Remember that you do not belong to yourselves. Christ has bought you, and his precious blood was your price.”

Francis Scott Key died in 1843.

Francis Scott Key By the dawn's early light

John F. Kennedy Moon shot JFK

On this day in 1958, Congress passes legislation establishing NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A few years later, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivers his Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs. During “Section IX: Space,” he famously challenged:
“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

Later, on September 12, 1962 he reiterated that important challenge:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

There

Finally, he concluded with stirring simplicity:
“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

John F. Kennedy Moon shot JFK

John F. Kennedy Acceptance Speech Democratic National Convention 1960

Nominated

On this day in 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy is nominated for the presidency by the Democratic Convention, defeating Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who is named his running mate the next day.

Upon accepting the nomination, JFK closed his address with these words:

“Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.”

As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.”

Kennedy went on to win one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, narrowly besting Vice President Richard M. Nixon, becoming the youngest candidate ever elected to the presidency and also the first Catholic president. 

Inaugurated

JFK opened his famous inaugural address with these words:

“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

He closed with these:

“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

After less than three years in office, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

John F. Kennedy Acceptance Speech Democratic National Convention 1960

Alexander Hamilton Aaron Burr duel

On this day in 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shoots Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in an “affair of honor,” aka a duel, in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton died the next day. He was 47.

The two were longtime political rivals and when Burr ran for vice president in 1796 Hamilton said this:

“Mr. Burr is determined, as I conceive, to climb to the highest honors of the state. He is bold, enterprising, and intriguing, and I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.”

When Hamilton lay dying for nearly twenty-four hours, he called for two ministers to pray with him and administer Communion. Then, he said:
I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Vice President Burr was indicted, but never arrested.
Hamilton’s eldest son Philip was killed in a duel three years earlier.

Sacred Rights

Previously, in February 1775, Hamilton wrote this, seemingly forecasting the language and intent of the Declaration of Independence:

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

“You would be convinced that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that, and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice.”

 

Alexander Hamilton Aaron Burr duel

 

Liberty Bell

On this day in 1776, legend has it, the “Liberty Bell” rings out from the the tower of what is now known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell is bronze.  More specifically, it is 70% copper, 25% tin, with small amounts of lead, gold, arsenic, silver, and zinc. It weighs in at 2,080 pounds.

Even weightier is the inscription on the bell, from the Holy Bible, Leviticus 25:10:

PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF LEV. XXV X.
Liberty Bell

Patrick Henry Give me Liberty

On this day in 1776, the Constitution of Virginia is adopted, and Patrick Henry, who helped write it, was elected governor, and served for five non-consecutive terms.

Here is section 16 of that, and the current version of the Constitution:
“SEC. 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

“But as for me…”

Lastly, here are a few portions of the Patrick Henry “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” speech from the year prior:

“Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
… If we wish to be free…we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.
… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

LorD

US Great Seal Reverse

On this day in 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States. Adoption came six years after the Continental Congress appointed the original committee to design a seal. Congress appointed the original committee just a few hours after they adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776.

The Obverse

US Great Seal Obverse
E Pluribus Unum, Latin for Out of Many, One, was once a de facto motto of the United States. However, it was never codified into law. Thus, In God We Trust is the official national motto.
Our Lost Founding suggests that perhaps the two go hand in hand.

The Reverse

US Great Seal Reverse

Signals signified

Founding Father and Patriot Charles Thomson’s “Remarks and Explanation” are the only official comments about the symbolism and the meaning of the Great Seal. Here is the portion regarding The Reverse:

“The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Æra, which commences from that date.–” (emphasis added)

“The Motto” Annuit Cœptis translates to (Providence) favors our undertakings.

Lastly, Thomson, also a Greek scholar, spent his final years working on an English translation of the Bible.

Great Seal Thomson Report Page 2Great Seal Thomson Report Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statue of Liberty Parade

On this day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrives at Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. It would not be formally dedicated until October 28, 1886.

Lady Liberty’s official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. Her form is based on Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. The statue was designed to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.

Inscribed

She holds in her left hand a tabula ansata with the inscription JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776).

As she holds that votive tablet, and as it states in the Declaration of Independence, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Statue of Liberty Parade