At an event on Friday sponsored by the AEI Program on American Citizenship in celebration of George Washington's birthday, leading American political thinkers came together to discuss Washington's presidency and the importance to the nation of having a time set apart to remember and appreciate its founders. After an introduction by Amy A. Kass (Hudson Institute), Leon R. Kass (AEI) read excerpts from George Washington's "Farewell Address." Diana Schaub (Loyola University Maryland) commented on the address, paying special attention to the importance of Washington's efforts to strengthen and educate public sentiment among his fellow Americans toward taking part in their own governance. Richard Brookhiser (National Review) spoke about Washington's extraordinary achievements as America's first president -- setting precedent for all future presidents, navigating the tumultuous politics of his administration and, perhaps most important, voluntarily leaving office and retiring to Mt. Vernon at the conclusion of his second term. Harvey Mansfield (Harvard University) discussed the unique nature of the office of the presidency and Washington's role in it and noted that it is essential to the perpetuation of our political institutions that Americans take time to study and revere great leaders like Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In drawing modern lessons from Washington's presidency, Steven F. Hayward (AEI) argued that modern presidents could learn from Washington's deference to the Constitution in deciding the roles and responsibilities of the office.
The third Monday in February has come to be known—wrongly—as Presidents’ Day, an annual excuse for a three-day weekend and big-ticket sales. In one of a series of events and conversations about the meaning of the American calendar, Amy A. Kass (Hudson Institute) and Leon R. Kass (AEI) seek to restore America's fading national memory with a celebration of the holiday by its original and proper name: Washington's Birthday.
This event will open with a reading of portions of George Washington's Farewell Address, a selection from the anthology “What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song” (ISI Books, 2011). A distinguished panel will then discuss Washington's exemplary founding presidency, its lessons for the modern presidency (as well as for today's aspiring presidential candidates), and the importance of preserving and perpetuating our political institutions.