“We have staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” —James Madison
Presidents Day is a day to celebrate the lives of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. America’s beloved first President was born, according to the Gregorian calendar, on Feb. 22, 1732. And America’s 16th President was born on Feb. 12, 1809.
In 1971, Congress decided to merge the birthdays into a one-day celebration and deemed that “Washington’s Birthday,” also known as Presidents Day, would be moved from February 22 to the third Monday in February.
“Believing that a representative government, responsible at short periods of election, is that which produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind, I feel it a duty to do no act which shall essentially impair that principle.”—George Washington
“I leave you hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.”—Abraham Lincoln
“The only assurance of our nation’s safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion.” – Abraham Lincoln
When Washington was leading his troops in the struggle for independence, he was greatly discouraged during the harsh winter the army was gathered at Valley Forge. A resident of Valley Forge, Isaac Potts, was walking through the woods when he heard a man praying aloud. He peeked through some trees to see that it was General Washington himself!
Isaac Potts later told his pastor, the Rev. Nathaniel Snowden, that the prayer he heard was “a plaintive sound” coming from a man in need of divine help. Mr. Potts went on to say that he saw Washington on his knees, his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He heard Washington beseeching God for aid and direction. “Such a prayer,” Isaac said, “I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.”
Once again our nation is beset with great barriers to overcome. We are faced as a nation with many national decisions to make. As a nation we are poised on the precipice of bankruptcy and ruin. At such a time as this it is only fitting to once again fall to our knees and offer a plaintive sound of a nation in need of divine guidance and providence once again. So we beseech the God of Washington and Lincoln once again:
Lord of heaven and earth, we offer you our deepest appreciation for this blessed land. Stir up a sense of stewardship in every citizen so we all may care for our nation and each inhabitant of it.
We pray especially for our leaders. Prompt everyone in a position of authority, from local to national leaders, to strive for righteousness, justice and the welfare of all citizens.
Finally, we pray that we may be ever mindful of the psalmist’s teaching that “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord …” (Psalm 33:12, NRSV). May that promise become real “from sea to shining sea.” Amen.
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to:
Acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to ‘recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that Great and Glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to The Great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal authority as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.
Coming to office at a time when unemployment was high and the economy had slowed to a crawl the President of the United States stood at the podium and delivered his State of the Union Address. He looked back to illuminate the past with it’s accomplishments and errors, and pointed to the future with hope and courage. He addressed the congress and the American people that change is hard but it must be done to erase the errors of the past and forge a new America. To restore again the values that we hold dear.
Now I present to you the President of the United States.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Congress, honored guests, and fellow citizens:
Today marks my first State of the Union address to you, a constitutional duty as old as our Republic itself.
President Washington began this tradition in 1790 after reminding the Nation that the destiny of self-government and the “preservation of the sacred fire of liberty” is “finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” For our friends in the press, who place a high premium on accuracy, let me say: I did not actually hear George Washington say that. But it is a matter of historic record.
But from this podium, Winston Churchill asked the free world to stand together against the onslaught of aggression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of a day of infamy and summoned a nation to arms. Douglas MacArthur made an unforgettable farewell to a country he loved and served so well. Dwight Eisenhower reminded us that peace was purchased only at the price of strength. And John F. Kennedy spoke of the burden and glory that is freedom.
When I visited this Chamber last year as a newcomer to Washington, critical of past policies which I believed had failed, I proposed a new spirit of partnership between this Congress and this administration and between Washington and our State and local governments. In forging this new partnership for America, we could achieve the oldest hopes of our Republic–prosperity for our nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity.
It’s my duty to report to you tonight on the progress that we have made in our relations with other nations, on the foundation we’ve carefully laid for our economic recovery, and finally, on a bold and spirited initiative that I believe can change the face of American government and make it again the servant of the people.
Seldom have the stakes been higher for America. What we do and say here will make all the difference to autoworkers in Detroit, lumberjacks in the Northwest, steelworkers in Steubenville who are in the unemployment lines; to black teenagers in Newark and Chicago; to hard-pressed farmers and small businessmen; and to millions of everyday Americans who harbor the simple wish of a safe and financially secure future for their children. To understand the state of the Union, we must look not only at where we are and where we’re going but where we’ve been. The situation at this time last year was truly ominous.
The last decade has seen a series of recessions. There was a recession in 1970, in 1974, and again in the spring of 1980. Each time, unemployment increased and inflation soon turned up again. We coined the word “stagflation” to describe this.
Government’s response to these recessions was to pump up the money supply and increase spending. In the last 6 months of 1980, as an example, the money supply increased at the fastest rate in postwar history–13 percent. Inflation remained in double digits, and government spending increased at an annual rate of 17 percent. Interest rates reached a staggering 21.5 percent. There were 8 million unemployed.