Significance of George Washington’s Legacy

On February of 1903, activist Jane Addams delivered her George Washington speech, through the use of rhetorical devices, to the Union League Club, commemorating our first president’s birthday and juxtaposing his fighting spirit during moral issues with society and what they have lost over time. Addams explains that society has lost the “same spirit of the soldier” which George Washington so proudly displayed while advocating change. Addams conveys her views on the significance of George Washington’s legacy through the use of rhetorical questions, pathos and strategic parallelism.

While gratifying Washington for his courageous virtues, Addams evokes pathos to illuminate the patriotism of this founding father and that he would risk “his own life for the life of a larger cause.” Addams also yields an appreciative tone to show her respect for Washington, and the example he set for the future. By beginning her paragraphs with rhetorical questions, Addams clearly recognizes the characteristics which led Washington’s legacy. Asking questions such as “What is a great man who has made his mark upon history?” the following sentences explain what a true American does in a time of trouble.

The rhetorical question structures the address and it lets Addams come across the point as to why George Washington is considered a significant historical person. Addams signifies that times have changed, causing patriotic spirits to be exchanged for an “emphasis put upon material possessions.” Through this transition, Addams provides a call to action as she rekindles the righteous virtues which became the foundation for the United States.

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Addams makes the reader ponder on the idea of a “great man who has made his mark upon history” and compares that concept to George Washington.

Thus, implying Washington has affected all of America and made the nation greater. The implementation of a question after a list of negative actions establishes George Washington as a great man of character. Addams incorporates key symbols into her speech to revive the lost feeling of patriotism in the U.S. By alluding to the American flag, she signifies that it stood “for righteousness as well as for increased commercial prosperity”, evoking a proud sense of nationalism. Along with the use of formal diction throughout the entirety of the speech.

Phrases such as “great menace”, “possessors of wealth” and “bearing our burdens” makes the speech formal and gives the impression the speech is intended for a sophisticated setting. Although George Washington exists only in history books, Addams argues his legacy has a lasting effect on society through national symbols which recognize the once surging pride to be American. Addams repeats the phrase “we will have to” to spread her activist spirit through the audience and cause them to follow the same virtues on which the United States was built.

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Significance of George Washington’s Legacy. (2021, Apr 25). Retrieved from

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