Posts

Dwight Eisenhower farewell

On this day in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, looking forward to becoming a private citizen, gives his Farewell Address to the nation.

So, here are a couple excerpts from the opening and closing of his address:

“Three days from now, after a half century of service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

You and I – my fellow citizens – need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will (one day) reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations’ great goals.

America’s Aspiration

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”

A timeless aspiration for all Americans.

Dwight D. Eisenhower farewell

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” Regan 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