Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

On this day in 1989, President Ronald Reagan gives his Farewell Address to the Nation. In doing so, he defined his vision of “the shining city upon a hill.”

“[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan built on the phrase preached by Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop in perhaps the earliest example of the idea of American exceptionalism. In 1630, while still aboard a ship bound for Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop delivered his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”

He said, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Of course, the origin of the phrase is found in Matthew 5: 14-16
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, this is the ultimate aim of American exceptionalism.

Earlier in his address, Reagan acknowledged “The Great Communicator” nickname.
“I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. …[F]or me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery… of our values and our common sense.”

Patriotism, Pilgrims, and Freedom

Then, he asked “are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

He continued by outlining the fracture that continues to plague our nation:
“We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood… .Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”

Then, he charged us all with doing “a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

Bringing this post full circle, he added that “we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here...”

Before concluding by saying “goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” Reagan offered “lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

Great Rediscovery

Of course, the purpose of Our Lost Founding is to help us rediscover “the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

But why is that important? Ronald Reagan answered that question in his farewell address:
“[A]s long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours….”

Ronald Reagan Farewell Address

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

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt

On this day in 1789, George Washington wins America’s first presidential election and would be sworn in on April 30.

Of course, Our first president is known as the Father of Our Country. Furthermore, he is remembered as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

First Official Act

In his April 30 Inaugural Address, Washington acknowledged his “anxieties” and “conflict of emotions.”
Then, he made his “first official Act” as President of the United States:

“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves…”

A few sentences later came the quote that inspired Our George Washington “Invisible Hand” t-shirt:

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”

George Washington Invisible Hand t-shirt First Fervent Act

Harry Truman Fair Deal

On this day in 1949, President Harry S. Truman delivers the State of the Union address that became known as his Fair Deal speech.

“Every segment of our population and every individual has a right to expect from our Government a fair deal.”

Then, he recalled a Scripture reference from his first State of the Union address:

“In 1945, when I came down before the Congress for the first time on April 16, I quoted to you King Solomon’s prayer that he wanted wisdom and the ability to govern his people as they should be governed. I explained to you at that time that the task before me was one of the greatest in the history of the world, and that it was necessary to have the complete cooperation of the Congress and the people of the United States.”

“Our National Life”

Finally, Truman concludes his Fair Deal Speech with these powerful words:

“Now, I am confident that the Divine Power which has guided us to this time of fateful responsibility and glorious opportunity will not desert us now.

With that help from Almighty God which we have humbly acknowledged at every turning point in our national life, we shall be able to perform the great tasks which He now sets before us.”

Harry Truman Fair Deal

 

The Resignation of General George Washington December 23 1783

On this day in 1783, George Washington “claims the indulgence of retiring”  by resigning as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

He delivered his Resignation Speech at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Here are a few excerpts:

“Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States, of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence — a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

The successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations- and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous Contest.

Last act?

“I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to his holy keeping.”

The next morning, George Washington departed for Mount Vernon, his Virginia home. He became a private citizen on Christmas Eve.

Of course, his retirement “from the great theatre of action” lasted just a few years. In 1788, the people unanimously elect the Father of Our Country to be first President of the United States.

The Resignation of General George Washington December 23 1783

 

 

Remember December 7th Pearl Harbor

On this day in 1941, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a swarm of over 360 Japanese warplanes unleash a devastating surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor.

This war crime pulled our country in to World War II.

Mercifully, it was Sunday morning, so many personnel had passes to attend church off base.

Still, over 2,400 Americans were killed and nearly 1,200 were wounded. Most of the Pacific fleet was damaged or destroyed.

So Help us God

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation about the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Of course, most of us are familiar with his opening statement:
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

He went on:
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

‘Laus Deo’, we did.

Finally, some may take issue with this phrase as sworn in Our public oaths, despite the greater degree of intent and obligation it imparts, especially in contrast to a personal affirmation.

After all, let us echo the sentiment of George Washington from his farewell address:
Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”


Remember December 7th Pearl Harbor

 

Veterans Day - US Military Seals
Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the “anniversary… should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations… .”

So, at a dedication ceremony for a liberty memorial on Armistice Day in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge remarked that “[i]n each recurring year this day will be set aside to revive memories and renew ideals.” [emphasis added]

Next, he concluded his remarks this way:
“If the American spirit fails, what hope has the world? In the hour of our triumph and power we can not escape the need for sober thought and consecrated action. These dead whom we here commemorate have placed their trust in us. Their living comrades have made their sacrifice in the belief that we would not fail. In the consciousness of that trust and that belief this memorial stands as our pledge to their faith, a holy testament that our country will continue to do its duty under the guidance of a Divine Providence.”

“Let us Remember…”

Years later, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower legally changed the name of the federal holiday with his Veterans Day Proclamation. Here is an excerpt:

“On [November 11] let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
Finally, the national ceremony commences with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb was dedicated on this day in 1921.
Dewey Defeats Harry Truman

On this day in 1948, incumbent Harry S. Truman defeats challenger Thomas E. Dewey in the greatest upset in presidential election history.

This was despite the premature assertion of an early edition of the Chicago Tribune with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”
(Yes, that’s Harry Truman holding that newspaper.)

Dewey Defeats Harry Truman

Go and Vote…

On Election Eve, concluding his Whistle Stop Train Tour, President Truman spoke from his home in Independence, Missouri. His remarks were carried on a nationwide radio broadcast, and here are a few of them:

“I believe with all my heart and soul that Almighty God has intended the United States of America to lead the world to peace. . .. We failed to meet our obligation. . ..

And now, my fellow citizens, the future welfare of our country is in your hands. I have told you the truth as God has given me wisdom to see the truth.

Go to the polls tomorrow and vote your convictions, your hopes, and your faith — your faith in the future of a nation that under God can lead the world to freedom and to peace.”

Meanwhile, lets us bear in mind what Samuel Adams said about voting:

 

John Adams on this house

On this day in 1800, John Adams finally moves in to the as-yet-unfinished President’s House — now known as the White House — in Washington, D.C. Construction had been ongoing since 1792.

It was the final year of his only term as president, so he and his wife Abigail lived there for only a few months. On February 17, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected president.

“This House…”

On November 2, the day after moving in, President Adams writes to his wife Abigail about their new home:

“I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!”

John Adams On this House
In 1945, the final year of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had that blessing carved in to the stone fireplace of the State Dining Room, where it is seen today. Perhaps we all ought to pray it again, that it may also be felt.

John Adams White House blessing

 

Ike American flag Dwight D. Eisenhower

On this day in 1890, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, is born in Texas.

“Ike,” as he was affectionately called, had the words “under God” inserted in to the pledge of allegiance, and Ike made “In God We Trust” our nation’s official motto.

Those are a few reasons why “I like Ike.”

Appropriate Address

Now, “[m]y friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads.”

That’s how Eishenhower began his inaugural address on January 20, 1953.

His prayer proves pertinent, even today:

“Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.”

Then, having concluded his prayer, and getting further in to his address, he asked a question that may have no earthly answer:

“In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to know the full sense and meaning of these times in which we live. In our quest of understanding, we beseech God’s guidance. We summon all our knowledge of the past and we scan all signs of the future. We bring all our wit and all our will to meet the question:

How far have we come in man’s long pilgrimage from darkness toward the light? Are we nearing the light–a day of freedom and of peace for all mankind? Or are the shadows of another night closing in upon us?”

At such a time…

Next, he calls for a renewal of faith. That’s a call each generation needs to answer:

“At such a time in history, we who are free must proclaim anew our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws.

This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man’s inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight.”

Perhaps Our time in history isn’t much different.

Ike American flag
(Be sure to “Unscroll…” more about Ike by searching Our other posts.)

Harry Truman televised

On this day in 1947, President Harry Truman delivers the first ever televised presidential address from the White House.

At the time, television was in its infancy and the number of Americans with television sets in their home was only in the thousands. President Truman sought the support of the American people for a food conservation program proposed by the Citizens Food Committee. The program offered help to European nations where “crops have suffered so badly from droughts, floods, and cold from droughts, floods, and cold” in the wake of World War II.

Truman said “Our self-denial will serve us well in the years to come.”

Then, here’s how he concluded the address:

“Hungry people in other countries look to the United States for help. I know that they will be strengthened and encouraged by this evidence of our friendship.

I know that they will be waiting with hope in their hearts and a fervent prayer on their lips for the response of our people to this program.

We must not fail them.”

Of course, in 1952 it was President Harry Truman who issued a Presidential Proclamation for a National Day of Prayer:

“I… do hereby proclaim… a National Day of Prayer, on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly. May we also give thanks to Him for His constant watchfulness over us in every hour of national prosperity and national peril.”

We must not fail to pray.

After all, fasting and prayer go hand-in-hand.

Harry Truman televised