In 1976, former United States President George Washington delivered one of the most meaningful and talked-about Farewell Addresses. The Address was a combination of his personal thoughts on his presidency, as well as a warning and advice to the people of United States.
Washington begins by telling his countrymen that it was originally planned to be delivered four years prior when he thought of retiring as president of United States. However, feeling that he is obligated to answer to the needs of the very people who elected him to his post, he decided to extend his presidency.
Washington knew that his retirement would cause a lot of concern and anxiety among his fellow Americans and so he builds their confidence, and at the same time, warns them about the dangers of sectionalism, political factions, and foreign alliances.
Washington stresses the need for unity throughout his Farewell Address, saying that this where the true success and liberty of the country depends on. He also warns against sectionalism; that is, having a state-centric rather than a Union-centric mindset. He further calls on to the American people to continue defending the Union against possible attacks from other countries who seek to destabilize the government.
In addition, Washington warns his countrymen against misleading ideas propagated by the government’s enemies that United States is too big a territory to be handled by just one administration. He underscores that this seemingly large and fragmented territory can be bound by unity and cooperation. He reminds the people that regardless of the state they live in, or the regional boundaries that exist between and among them, they are, at the end of the day, all Americans. Thus, everyone should play his or her part in keeping the Union intact.
Another aspect that Americans should be on close guard, according to Washington, is the existence of political factions which seek to weaken, and later on overthrow the government. He points out that while people advocating political factions may seem to have reasonable arguments, they are ultimately doing it for personal, and oftentimes, greedy motives. Washington also alerts his fellow Americans that these people might use government policies or exploit certain provisions of the Constitution to carry out their selfish plans.
He continues to warn the people about the dangers of having political parties in any government. He argues that political parties have always been viewed as enemies of the state because of their tendency to amass great power to destabilize the government or hit on their political rivals. While political parties may be useful in other forms of government, they are not necessary in a democratic government such as the United States.
While Washington encourages the people to treat all people and all other countries with utmost respect and avoid engaging them in battles or disputes, he warns them against establishing long-term or permanent ties with foreign governments. This, he says, develops unnecessarily strong attachment to other countries which might negatively affect the government’s ability to establish sound foreign policies.
Throughout this Farewell Address, Washington regards the American identity in the highest possible level, and calls on the people to continuously defend and protect this. His personal love of his country was also evident in his Address through the warnings and advice he issued to his fellow Americans. Moreover, his personal love for the country was evident in the contents of the Address. He did not leave without making sure that the country is strong and that the people are even stronger to take good care of it.