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Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 07:32:41 -0700
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From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Alan Keyes: Washington's Birthday Address (fwd)

>Washington's Birthday Address
>Ambassador Alan Keyes
>Ventura, California
>February 22, 1997
>Thank you very much.
>I appreciate all of you for coming today, and
>commemorating George Washington's Birthday - a day
>that, sadly speaking, is in and of itself, I
>guess, no longer commemorated in the United
>States.  Isn't that sad?   I think one of the
>things I would like to do, if I ever got the
>chance, would be to see whether we couldn't
>separate these holidays again; I don't like what
>we're doing right now.  Because we now refer to
>the day we celebrate, on whatever day happens to
>be somewhat vaguely close to the 22nd, we call it
>"Presidents Day."  And, of course, some folks in
>the media are taking advantage of that in order to
>create the impression that we are just kind of
>generally celebrating presidents.  Now I don't
>know about you, but we've had a lot of presidents,
>and some of them are worth celebrating and some of
>them aren't even worth remembering.  So I'm not
>entirely sure why you would want a day set aside
>dealing with all of them, except that it is in
>line with the kind of 'happy face' approach to
>everything that we're adopting these days:  "I'm
>OK.  You're OK.  They're all OK.  Let's be OK.
>It's Presidents Day!"
>But I liked it better the old way, because we kind
>of singled out - or, in a certain sense, WE
>didn't; I think, in a way, the sort of inevitable
>judgment of our common opinion and heart singled
>out - only a select few, indeed, only two, of the
>presidents we have had, for the signal honor of
>remembering their birthdays.  Now, there is in
>fact only one of those - the one whose birthday we
>celebrate today - for whom that esteem was
>universal.  Since we do understand, don't we, that
>Abraham Lincoln had the great task of leading this
>country during a civil war, and great as he was,
>his greatness did leave a bad taste in the mouths
>of some folks who were on the receiving end of his
>Nonetheless, I think he deserved that place, and
>of course Washington was unreservedly accorded a
>special place of preeminence.  And what is
>remarkable is that, contrary to the common belief
>that we have, that you kind of have to wait until
>after somebody is dead before you can really
>decide whether they were good guys or bad guys,
>and while they're alive there's going to be a
>great dispute over that, in Washington's time
>there was no dispute whatsoever over this.  And
>universally he was regarded as the preeminent man
>of his day.
>And that was not only true of Americans; it was
>even true of, say, folks in Europe, who otherwise
>had a rather low opinion of America, a great many
>of them, but who regarded Washington's
>statesmanship - despite the fact that at that
>time, remember, we were not a great country with
>far flung interests that everybody regarded as the
>preeminent nation on the face of the earth, no; we
>were just a backwater bunch of former British
>colonies that were regarded as kind of living on
>the fringes of the civilized earth, and maybe
>imbibing too much of that lack of civilization.
>It had been written of America that even the dogs
>forgot how to bark in the New World.  So when
>folks in the sophisticated, kingly courts of
>Europe were willing, at the highest levels, to
>accord to George Washington a status equal to that
>of the greatest men they were aware of in the
>history of the world, you have got to know that it
>was an unreserved tribute.
>But you've also got to ask yourself how that could
>have come about?   How the leader of a rebellion
>in a relatively obscure group of colonies in the
>uncivilized New World would have reached such a
>peak of esteem in the minds of those who had every
>reason to preen themselves upon their superiority
>to that world and to his historic circumstances:
>every reason to believe that their great and
>shining nations, their monarchs, their regal
>courts would be remembered when his achievements,
>such as they were, were forgotten.
>Well in part, of course, this was a respect
>accorded to the potential of the New World.  But
>in larger part, it was a respect accorded to the
>truth that virtue is virtue, whether it acts upon
>the grand stage of the entire earth, or the
>smaller stage of but one portion of the earth.
>And of course, those who were aware of the
>tradition of western civilization knew that,
>because they had read Thucydides.  And characters
>whom they greatly admired from that history were
>characters who had walked upon the relatively
>paltry stage of the 'polis'es of ancient Greece,
>in wars that wouldn't hold a candle, in terms of
>the numbers involved, to some of the wars that
>occurred in Europe in later days, in latter days.
>So they were according a recognition not just to
>Washington the man, but also, I believe, to that
>universal principle of nobility, of true virtue,
>which even those who were unable to emulate it and
>practice it, still esteemed.
>He was regarded, above all, as someone who had
>resisted a temptation that, I think, most of them
>realized they would not be able to resist.  For in
>that day and age, of course - it was a kingly
>time.  Monarchies dominated, in one form or
>another, most of the earth.  And many of them had
>roots that had gone back for long periods, and
>those who had a claim to a throne were but a small
>handful of all of humankind.  And George
>Washington had moved onto the scene, and had ended
>up, through his virtues and through Providence, in
>a position where he could have been such a king.
>They had read in their history books of the
>hypocritical resolve of Julius Caesar:  when the
>crown was offered him before the masses of Rome,
>he spurned it three times, while of course
>engrossing to himself all of the power that it
>represented.  They understood the hypocrisy of it,
>but they also understood the virtue that Caesar
>feigned.  And they knew that there might be no
>greater test of character on this earth, than to
>be offered the seat of power, and to turn aside
>from that absolute power in order to serve instead
>the better destiny of your people.  This they knew
>to be the character of George Washington.  He was
>such a man.
>And I think that we sometimes neglect to remember
>this great man because we have a tendency to
>accept the small-minded standards that some who
>fancy themselves our historians wish to impose
>upon our history.  And George Washington after
>all, as some of the historians these days point
>out . . .  the Revolutionary War was not, by any
>standards we would recognize, a very big or
>impressive war.  There have been those who have
>written tracts demeaning his generalship,
>especially since we have been through times now
>where generals who might have commanded minor
>brigades in the course of our great global
>conflicts might actually have had responsibility
>for more men and material than George Washington
>did during the entire course of the Revolutionary
>It does not seem that he acted upon a grand scale,
>that he could be weighed in the balance with
>Caesar and Napoleon in his feats of generalship.
>So why should we give him any respect, simply on
>account of the fact that he led the forces of the
>revolution during the Revolutionary War?
>Well you see, that kind of a judgment, made in
>hindsight, on the basis of these paltry, material
>measures, fails to take account of the real
>challenge of the Revolutionary War, which was not
>a material, but a moral challenge.  And if you
>have read some of the folks who have written tomes
>about what war is about, including people like
>Clausewitz, one of the things that comes through -
>and that I think is an insight that actually lies
>at the heart of some of the greater generals - is
>that war isn't really a clash of material things;
>it is a clash of wills.  And the victors are
>determined not necessarily by who has the most in
>the way of material force, but by who manages to
>maintain that cohesion of will for the longest
>time, in the face of the inevitable confusion and
>vicissitudes of war.  It is, in other words, a
>test of whether you shall cling fast to that
>vision with which you embarked upon the conflict,
>to that sense of passion with which most people
>spring to arms in defense of their homes or in
>pursuit of some ambition, or whether in the face
>of the withering reality of war you lose that
>resolve and surrender to the enemy.
>During the course of the Revolutionary War - to
>tell you the quite honest truth, if you've ever
>read the history, you come away with a decidedly
>ambiguous impression of the character of most
>Americans at the time.  And as a matter of fact,
>they were honest about this with themselves.  You
>did not necessarily see the best during the course
>of those years of the Revolutionary War.  If you
>spent any time whatsoever reviewing the debates in
>the Continental Congress, and so forth; if you
>looked at some of the shady dealings that went on
>- you know, we think corruption was invented in
>our day; I beg to differ.  People were
>profiteering, and taking advantage, and gouging,
>and doing whatever they could to reap an
>advantage.  Others were seeking places of position
>and power.  All kinds of petty deceits and
>betrayals went on.
>And in the midst of it, those who had begun the
>war with a great commitment to its ideals began to
>flag in their commitment.  Partly because war did
>mean damage and death, and partly because it had
>revealed to them the true character of their
>compatriots, and they were disgusted.  It was not
>clear to them that any people that could muster up
>such a venal bunch actually deserved liberty.
>And in the midst of that, of course, the resolve
>to send men, and send material, and so forth and
>so on, that had been there in some of the
>colonies, it flagged.  And those who were working
>on the will of the patriots, to say that the
>revolution was never justified, and they had
>wrongly broken their ties with England for the
>sake of a licentious rebelliousness, appealing not
>only to their patriotism but to their religious
>feeling to undermine their sense that the
>revolution was justified - this went on
>continually in the colonies.  And as it was
>pursued, all of the effects of that wavering
>resolve were seen in the fate and fortunes of the
>Continental Army:  its lack of supplies, of
>uniforms, of support.
>And, you see, we have a tendency in the midst of
>the consequences of the American Revolution, the
>great republic that was erected in the wake of
>that revolution, the enormous power that has been
>amassed, the economic strength, the great
>edifices, the monuments, the awe in which we are
>held by all the world, we see Washington in the
>context of this greatness and we assume that
>somehow that greatness sustained him.
>But it was not there.  He lived in the midst,
>rather, in those years of a rag-tag bunch of
>individuals, no better than they ought to be, many
>of whom had to be admonished every day that they
>should cease to curse, and cease to swear, and
>cease to gamble, and cease to prevaricate.  It
>was, if you lived in the midst of it, I bet, not a
>very inspiring spectacle, especially not terribly
>inspiring to a mind that was well aware of the
>true outer refinements of aristocratic life.  And
>that knew, in the midst of the squalor of that
>camp, the contrast between the force he led and
>the well-healed forces he opposed.  There was very
>little material reinforcement for Washington's
>will in the realities of his command.
>And yet while others were wavering, while others
>were experiencing moral revulsion and disgust in
>the midst of these confusions and vicissitudes, he
>held firm.  And I believe that it was that
>experience of Washington during the course of the
>years of the war that indelibly marked upon the
>minds of his fellow countrymen a sense that he was
>an individual not quite like them.  Because each
>of them probably knew that, at some moment, at
>some point, in some way, in the course of all of
>that, they had flagged in their commitment.  They
>had weakened in their resolve.  They had been
>prepared to surrender what he was never prepared
>to surrender.  And that it was precisely by
>looking again upon his solid example of
>persistence that they renewed their strength.
>And where did he get this resolve?  Well, it's
>easy in some ways to point to the externals.  I
>would be tempted, of course, immediately to say,
>"Well, he got his resolve from his faith in God."
>But we use those words so easily, that I think we
>ought rather to look at what prepared in his life
>for his ultimate triumph in the test of that
>faith.  For at one level, faith is a moment.  But
>at another level, faith is a habit of life.  At
>one level faith is a gesture, but at another
>level, faith is a tiny accumulation of gestures in
>which, in the daily moments of life, you have put
>aside this thought, and put aside that impulse,
>and put aside that want, and put aside that need
>and that desire, in order to be firm and
>persevering in your resolve to live up to the
>standards imposed by your allegiance to virtue, to
>truth, and to God.  It was that accumulation of
>daily practice that I believe in the end resulted
>in this unshakable fortress of moral rectitude
>that Washington became.  Informed, of course, by a
>heart that seemed above all to wish to live up to
>the noble potential that God had planted in him,
>and that in fact He plants in each and every one
>of us.
>That's the other remarkable thing about George
>Washington.  And I am now about to say something
>which you shouldn't take amiss; it's not intended
>as disparagement of any kind.  But in many ways,
>you know, George Washington was quite an ordinary
>guy.  Especially when you put him up against some
>of his compatriots.  In terms of the depth of his
>ability to analyze and penetrate and understand
>the intricacies of the challenge of statesmanship,
>I don't think he was at all the equal of a Madison
>in judgment.  I don't think he was at all the
>equal of a Jefferson in expression.  I don't think
>he was at all the equal of a Hamilton in
>shrewdness and prudence.  In some ways, he lived
>amongst men who were his superiors in ability, in
>talent, in the external endowments of intellect
>and grace.  He was, in some ways, a man who lacked
>the refinements of some of his Southern
>colleagues, and he was in some ways a man who
>lacked the outward sense of virtuous expression of
>an Adams, his New England compatriot.
>And he was not free of that defect which seems to
>characterize the noblest minds; he was not free of
>ambition.  I mean, you do have to know that,
>though he wasn't always someone who would put
>himself in bold way, when they were debating the
>question of whether they should or should not go
>to war over these issues in the final stages, the
>fact that George Washington showed up at the
>deliberations every day in his military uniform
>was perhaps a way of putting himself forward for
>the position.  I think also that gesture bespeaks
>the fact that underneath all of the training and
>all of the self-discipline, there was undoubtedly
>a sense of humor.  But in that gesture we
>understand then, that though he might not have
>been in some areas the equal of his illustrious
>compatriots, he was in one respect altogether
>superior to them.  And each and every one of them,
>I think, in the end, acknowledged this, quite
>It's an acknowledgment that in some ways we have a
>hard time understanding, because we are so distant
>from the willing frame of mind through which
>individuals submit to the allure of monarchy.  We
>have pretty much forgotten what it's like to live
>happily under a king because you are able in that
>context to derive to yourself some portion of the
>honor, of the luster, of the nobility represented
>by his kingly presence.  And that was something
>the externals of which characterized the courts of
>Europe, but the truth of which lies in the frank,
>the free esteem which individuals of noble mind
>will give to those who represent before them a
>nobler achievement of virtue: the easy surrender
>of oneself to that which you admire.
>It was that easy surrender to his virtues which
>characterized the relationship between Washington
>and many of his compatriots.  And it is why it was
>easily assumed that if he wanted to he could be
>king. Because there were many of his compatriots
>who felt he was that far above them in virtue,
>that if he had said "this is the way to go," they
>would have said "fine," and they would have helped
>him to the throne.  And we would be living in a
>very different America, I suppose.  It's not
>entirely clear what its fate would have been.
>Knowing all of this, and knowing the fact that
>sometimes when you are one such individual in the
>midst of others who might have greater claims to
>certain kinds of honor than you do:  that can
>result in all kinds of petty traits.  It can
>result in envy and resentment, and the desire to
>tear down rather than to respect their abilities.
>I would have to say, without mentioning any names,
>that my experience of life thus far in American
>public life -- we have a lot of people who are
>like that.  They can't stand having around them
>anybody who has superior abilities to them.  And
>so they generally surround themselves with a
>constellation of mediocrity because they can't
>stand the presence of truly superior people.  This
>is not conducive to good results, but it makes
>them feel better.
>Washington was not such a man.  He seemed to live
>quite comfortably with the superior virtues of his
>compatriots, and to respect them, and to accord
>them their place.  Because he understood that this
>generosity, this greatness of heart, was also an
>element of virtue.  And he practiced it as he
>practiced the smaller elements of daily virtue.
>And that practice too prepared him for his role,
>since the respect which he freely accorded to
>their merits, they freely returned to his great
>character.  And that mutual respect and
>understanding became both the foundation of their
>relationship with him, but also, through that
>relationship forged, it became the basis of their
>relationship, their commitment, to the cause.
>I speak about this with some knowledge, because I
>had to spend time during the preparation of my
>dissertation studying the relationship between
>George Washington and another American of great
>ability, though of somewhat lesser character,
>Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton was widely regarded,
>at least in terms of his native intelligence and
>abilities, as probably the ablest of the founding
>generation.  He was a young prodigy.  He was in
>substance what, unhappily, Bill Clinton has been
>in form:  a young man who, long before his time,
>achieved the preeminence of consorting with the
>greatest men of his day, and acting on the largest
>scene of events.
>He was, in many respects, Washington's right hand
>during the Revolutionary War and later, during his
>first administration.  The relationship between
>these two men was very instructive.  It
>culminated, during the Revolutionary War, in a
>very strange circumstance in which, as Hamilton
>recounts it, he had been summoned to attend
>General Washington, and he got waylaid in a
>conversation.  And he was coming up the stairs in
>their headquarters, and Washington was at the head
>of the stairs, and apparently had waxed a little
>bit impatient waiting for his aide-de-camp.  And,
>according to Hamilton's account, Washington looks
>at him and says "You dishonor me sir," meaning to
>say, "You didn't come when I called you; who do
>you think I am?"  And Hamilton looked at him and
>he said, "Well, since you think so, sir, we
>part."  This was a way of saying, "Well, I didn't
>mean to dishonor you, but in thinking that I would
>dishonor you, you dishonor me.  So I guess we've
>come to a parting of the ways."
>It is in some ways a contentious moment, but it
>shows you that George Washington was not a man
>surrounded by those who simply and in some
>sycophantic way submitted to his will.  He was
>not, thankfully, like many of the politicians of
>our day, who love to have staff people around them
>who lick their boots, wipe their hands, jump when
>they call, and otherwise do what they tell them,
>but never have a thought that openly contradicts
>their master.  He did not want such men around
>him.  And Hamilton was not such a man.  And when
>he thought that he had been slighted -- and he was
>very sensitive to slights, you know, because he
>came from a rather questionable background -- he
>just took umbrage.  Now, his way of taking umbrage
>was to demand that he be put into the hottest part
>of the battle, the thickest part of the fight;
>which actually happened, and he was able to take
>part on the front lines in the latter battle of
>the Revolutionary War.
>But I recount the episode more because it
>illustrated a truth about Washington than anything
>else.  And that truth is that a man of character
>does not wish to be surrounded by those who are in
>some sense his natural inferiors.  He wishes to be
>surrounded by those who are in many respects his
>acknowledged superiors, save in the one respect of
>that virtue which he supplies to their will.
>And we, today, have almost no appreciation of that
>contribution.  I say this because when you look at
>the measures that are applied during the course of
>our varied elections, and people talk about "Well,
>how do you choose between one candidate and
>another?" our natural tendency is to use the
>laundry list approach.  I had someone call my
>radio program the other day, and it seemed to me
>that the comment that he made was along these
>lines, that we are looking for someone to stand up
>in front of us and "tell us what you're gonna do."
>Well, if you want to be honest about it, George
>Washington wouldn't have met that test very well.
>He was not a very talkative guy.  Even in his
>writing, he is kind of sparing in his letters of a
>lot of verbiage and stuff.  He didn't spend a lot
>of time "telling people what he was gonna do" and
>folks didn't respect him because of the laundry
>list of things to do that he presented:  "Well,
>here's what we gotta' do in order to save the
>Republic.  Step Number One . . . and we need this
>budget, we need that appropriation  . . . " No.
>Of course, that happened, but that wasn't his
>His virtue was simply that, when it came time to
>do it, once he said that he would do it, it would
>get done.  That was his virtue.  He wasn't going
>to tell you much, but when he finally did tell you
>something, you could rely upon it.  He wasn't
>going to commit to much.  But when he finally did
>say "I will be there and do thus and such, and I
>will not stop until it is done," you could rely
>upon it.
>That, and all the things that I have described
>thus far, can be summarized in that word which has
>been bandied about much in our lives and politics
>in the last little while, but the meaning of which
>is so strange, I think, to many of the people who
>have talked about it; and that word, of course, is
>"character."  This was the only claim he had to
>preeminence, but it was all that was needed.  But
>of course, by that character was meant the
>accumulated results of these years of quiet
>self-discipline, when no one watched and no one
>saw but God; character confirmed in the midst of
>all the vicissitudes of war and confusion of the
>revolutionary period; character, finally,
>absolutely demonstrated when instead of taking
>advantage of the confusion of the
>post-revolutionary years, he rather retired to the
>quiet peace of Mr. Vernon and waited for the
>call.  Character.
>Now, that latter point is illustrated by a story
>in his career.  Because you know, we sometimes
>forget (that) the Revolutionary War ended in a
>kind of confusion in America, in which a lot of
>armed people spent several years in a state of
>intense discontent because promises that were made
>to them were not kept.  It is often very dangerous
>to society to have unhappy armed people running
>around.  And it would have been very dangerous to
>America.  And in fact there is an account in the
>latterly stages of the war, when all of these
>things were coming to a head, a kind of mutiny was
>going through the Continental Army, and in fact a
>gathering was taking place involving officers and
>men who felt that they were aggrieved.  And they
>were plotting to overthrow the authority of the
>Continental Congress.
>Washington got wind of this, and he was summoned
>to try to speak to them and do something about
>it.  Now, to tell you the truth, he could very
>well have given a "Friends, Romans, Countrymen"
>speech at that time:  talking about what
>wonderfully honorable men the representatives in
>the Continental Congress were, even while they
>were pilfering the supplies of the Continental
>Army, and distributing the resources intended for
>their pay to their minions, and so forth and so
>on.  And, being as how he was privy to many of the
>things that had gone on, he could have given them
>quite an aggravating laundry list, that would have
>had them frothing at the mouth to march on the
>seat of government and take their lives.   And
>being as how they were armed enough to defeat the
>British Army, they would have been armed enough to
>defeat the unarmed Congress.
>But that's not what he did.  Instead, what he did
>was to go to this meeting.  And the moment he
>walked into the room, what had been tumult and
>rising passion was quieted, by the mere fact of
>his presence.  And then it is said that he walked
>to the podium, and paused, and he had the little
>thing he had prepared to read, and he put it
>down.  And before he began to speak, he looked out
>at them, and he reached into his pocket and said,
>"Excuse me for a moment, while I put on my
>spectacles; for you see, I have grown blind as
>well as gray in the service of my country."  And
>with those words, all thought of mutiny
>evaporated.  Not because he had in some way roused
>them with his noble speech, but because in that
>simple gesture, he had reminded them that all that
>they had done, all that they had suffered, had not
>been for the sake of pay, but for the sake of
>liberty.  And this too was his character.  And it
>exemplifies the true significance of his virtue.
>By contrast, I'd like you to think for a moment on
>a scene that might similarly occur in our day.
>I'd like you to imagine, oh, say, Bill Clinton
>walking to the podium.  And I would like you to
>imagine what he might say on such an occasion.
>(laughs, and has some difficulty regaining
>composure) It's hard to do without laughing, isn't
>it?  (laughs again) But you could imagine the
>line.   If my wife is correct, then it would
>probably go something like this.  He'd probably
>ask people to pause and not judge him too harshly,
>because his handlers had dyed his hair brown as
>well as gray in pursuit of the presidency (nearly
>dissolves in giggles).
>But that fact actually illustrates for us what
>character has come to mean in our day.  Because
>the business of dressing yourself up for elections
>-- and my wife insists to me that in the run up to
>the election they dyed his hair grayer and grayer;
>it was virtually all gray during the election; and
>now, if you watch carefully, it is turning darker
>again.  I'm not sure she's right about this, but I
>looked.  It seems to me she's got a point.  But
>what does that remind you of -- dying hair and
>putting on make-up, and so forth and so on?  It
>reminds you, of course, of the theater.
>And in many ways, haven't our politics become
>theater?  They are like a stage play put on for
>our entertainment.  And that culture of
>entertainment, that idea of entertainment, has now
>become the basis on which we make our judgments
>about those who are presented to us for office.
>In that regard, though, I'd ask you to think about
>the difference between "character" as it applies
>to George Washington and "character" as it applies
>to Bill Clinton.  George Washington had character;
>Bill Clinton plays a character.  And if you think
>back on the history of our great Academy Award:
>you can get an Academy Award for playing Moses in
>"The Ten Commandments," but you can also get an
>Academy Award for playing Hannibal Lector in
>"Silence of the Lambs."  And that means that the
>award is not given you because you are a good
>character; it's not even given you because you
>play a good character; it's given you because you
>play any character, including a bad character,
>And it has gotten to the point now where it
>applies to everything.  I noticed during the
>course of the State of the Union Address - the
>part of it that I was able to see in little screen
>there when the O.J. Simpson thing wasn't on - I
>noticed when they presented the State of the Union
>Address that afterwards the commentators and
>others didn't really talk that much about the
>substance of Bill Clinton.  The first thing they
>want to rate is, "Well, how was his performance?
>Should we give him an Academy Award for that
>one?"  And of course, this is entirely
>appropriate.  Since like an actor reading his
>lines, Bill Clinton will pretty much say anything
>he has to say, and there need not be any
>correspondence between the substance of what he
>says and the substance of what he intends to do or
>That lack of correspondence between what you say
>and what you are, between what you do and what you
>promise, that doesn't seem, in our minds, to
>interfere with his character.  He plays it well.
>He carries it off.  He lies, but "he lies so good"
>that we are led to applaud the performance, and to
>act as if in accolade of that performance we
>should extend to him once again the credit that is
>due to his office.
>The sad thing is, though, that what this means is
>that some of our presidents spend what others of
>our presidents amass:  the credit needed to
>sustain our institutions.  George Washington put
>the biggest deposit of all in that bank.  In the
>way that he handled himself, in the way that he
>conducted himself, he created a reserve of respect
>that, in fact, helped to carry our young
>institutions through early years when they very
>well might have crumbled, had it not been for the
>respect he had earned, and for the habits that he
>had exemplified.
>Including, by the way, a salutary restraint in the
>occupation of power.  We don't think about it
>anymore, because we reached a time when virtue no
>longer met the test.  But one of the most
>important things that Washington did, in his
>example and without anything else needed, was that
>he passed a term limits bill for the presidency.
>Isn't that remarkable?  He didn't have to propose
>it to Congress; he didn't have to sign it into
>law.  But he had such a character, such a
>reputation, that once he had given the example of
>staying thus far and no farther, of sitting in the
>seat of power which he could have had until he
>drew his dying breath, but for a limited term -
>every President who came afterwards knew that they
>would suffer in that comparison, and dared not
>apply to serve longer than he had.  Isn't that
>remarkable?  It lasted down through the decades,
>and no one dared to challenge it until we come to
>our modern times, which are strangers to decency
>and shame.
>That's character.  A character which does not
>merely serve itself, but which sets aside a
>reserve which can be drawn down by a people in
>order to sustain the credit and the safety of
>their institutions of freedom.
>But then again you have others; and in our time we
>can see that.  We've even seen a recent example of
>this.  In Reagan's day the Presidency, which had
>started his term in low esteem, was actually built
>up again in the esteem of our people, until you
>looked at the polls and when people asked whether
>they thought the Presidency was better regarded
>today than yesterday, sixty, seventy, eighty
>percent of them eventually would say "Oh yeah.  We
>look at it better; people think better of the
>Presidency."  And that's what happened, from the
>time Reagan started to the time Reagan ended.  Mr.
>Clinton has had one term and a bit now, and when
>they take the polls, eighty percent of the people
>respond that "Oh, no, today people surely think
>less of the Presidency than they did before."
>Why?  Because some build it up and some tear it
>down.  Some make a deposit of their character into
>the bank which sustains the credibility of our
>institutions, and others withdraw and withdraw and
>withdraw, until finally we are engaged in a form
>of deficit spending far more devastating than the
>spending they do with our dollars.
>We live in a time when most of what I have been
>talking about in the course of these few minutes
>is maybe considered irrelevant.  We have been
>through the first election in our history - or is
>it the second?  It's the second, I think. - when
>folks were able to declare it irrelevant and
>actually win the day.  But that notion - that
>character doesn't count, that character doesn't
>matter - was not only strange to Washington's
>mind; it was entirely alien to the thinking of
>those who put together our Republic, and who saw
>in what they were doing an effort to sustain human
>rights and human dignity.
>We ought to know this, and we would if we even
>thought about it for a second.  Because after all,
>societies have to have order, don't they?  Do you
>want to live in a violent, anarchical society,
>where people do whatever they feel like to you and
>your property?  Somebody comes along and decides
>they want your car, and they walk into the house
>and shoot you to take it; nobody gainsays them?
>Somebody walks by and sees your lovely daughter,
>and takes her in the back and rapes her; and you
>can't gainsay them?  Because that is
>licentiousness:  passion unbridled, unrestrained
>by anything except the force, the strength of arms
>or will, which backs it up.   Do you want to live
>in such a society?  Nobody would.  There must be
>order.  There must be control.  When human beings
>get out of control, they create sheer hell on
>earth, and no one wants to live there.
>Knowing that there must be control, we have a
>choice.  Will it come from without or will it grow
>from within?  If we are to claim our freedom, if
>we are to claim the right for ourselves to decide
>and make choices, and if that claim is not to
>result in that very hell on earth, then we must
>have control from within.  Surrender that control,
>and as the consequences of that indiscipline grow
>upon our society, we must impose more and more and
>more external constraints, until freedom has
>evaporated and the sphere of our choices is
>narrowly limited by the chains we fasten upon
>ourselves in order to make our streets safe and
>our schools decent.   We sacrifice freedom to
>order, and in doing so we destroy the very
>principle of justice on which the nation rests,
>which principle requires that we respect the
>freedom of human beings, not destroy it for their
>We have come to that time, when this sacrifice is
>being made every day.  I noticed it last week:  a
>commission comes out with a report on how we're
>going to "fight terrorism in the air" and so forth
>and so on.  We're gonna now have profiles of
>travelers, which will be kept on account.  And if
>you happen to fit that profile you will be moved
>against, and this and that will happen to your
>luggage, and etc.  Do you really want to live in a
>society like that?
>The crust of slavery grows up all around us, the
>barricades around our public places which
>symbolize the chains which must be fastened on our
>will, so that we can live together in spite of our
>This was not intended.  We are not to live this
>way.  The Founders of our country intended rather
>a nobler destiny for us.  But they knew, as
>Washington knew, that the price to be paid for
>true liberty cannot be measured just in terms of
>the taxes we give, but must be measured by the
>extent to which we are willing to tax our will in
>order to control our passionate impulses.  If we
>have not within us that self-control, then we will
>have to surrender to external controls.
>But what's going to be the foundation for that
>self-control?  Can we do it on our own?  I think
>sometimes we present an image - and people like to
>pretend that there's this vision of people who are
>going to somehow lift themselves up by their own
>moral bootstraps, and through the strength of
>their indomitable virtue and will impose upon
>their unruly passions the reign of virtue.  I
>think we would do better to study the example of
>the father of our country, of the man whom even
>those superior in ability acknowledged to be their
>superior in character.  Was that the source of his
>virtue?  Truth to tell, it was not.
>I think the first source of his virtue was
>something we entirely forget, something humble,
>something unpretentious.  It's called "habit."
>You know, you just get into the habit of not doing
>things you ought not to do, and after a while you
>find that you don't want to do 'em any more,
>because it just doesn't occur to you.  That's not
>very glamorous.  It's not something you can take
>terribly much pride in.  But it happens to be a
>pretty solid foundation for good behavior.
>These days we have been convinced by trendy
>educationists that encouraging such habits in our
>young will stifle their creativity.  And so in the
>name of their creativity, we let them kind of
>destroy the place, tear it up, tear it down,
>explore all the possibilities of their little
>beings.  I've got to tell you, the possibilities
>of their little beings include some things that we
>don't want to explore.   And as those beings grow
>in strength, their creativity can become a form of
>self-destruction.  And that means that for the
>sake of their better nature, we might want to put
>warning signs up along the pathways to their worse
>nature, and even lock and bar the door to certain
>of their impulses, so that the habits that result
>will be habits safe for them, and safe for the
>society, and safe for freedom.
>George Washington had a virtue which we don't much
>identify with character, but which we should.  For
>you know, submitting to the reign of habit in the
>little things of life requires a kind of
>humility.  It requires a willingness to abase
>oneself every day, rather than to glory in the
>sense that "I get to do what I feel like doing,"
>and to like that sense of freshness and
>uninhibited indulgence that comes along with
>that.  Washington had that kind of daily
>humility.  He disciplined his prideful desire to
>dominate the moments of his life, and surrendered
>those moments to the empire of a higher principle.
>And then we come to the final truth, the one that
>so many want to retreat from, but which we are now
>prepared to consider.  What was that higher
>principle?  Was it simply ambition?  Was it simply
>a desire to cut a good figure before his
>contemporaries?  I think finally, if all of that
>had been true, then when the true test of ambition
>came, he would have succumbed to the temptation.
>When came the moment when he could have stood  -
>not just before his fellow countrymen, but before
>the world - preeminent, and he chose instead to
>stand in simple homespun and take the oath of
>office to a presidency not much like a kingship,
>and to return when it was over a relatively humble
>estate, in order to die not amidst the trappings
>of power, but rather amidst the quiet blessings of
>his country -- that tells us that that was not his
>higher principle.
>Hamilton called ambition "the ruling passion of
>the noblest minds."  But Hamilton wasn't always
>right.  In point of fact, it may very well be that
>the ruling passion of the noblest minds is not the
>passion for office, or the passion for power, or
>the passion for greatness.  It is rather the
>humble passion for the approval of Almighty God.
>To hear His word of blessing.  To fancy that in
>some part of His eye, we enjoy that favor
>invisible which nonetheless is more beautiful,
>more noble, more great, than any human greatness.
>I believe that this was the ruling passion of
>George Washington's mind.  I also believe that he
>understood that this passion was ultimately that
>which had to animate the soul, the spirit, the
>ambition, of a free people if they wished to
>sustain their freedom.
>It is, to tell the truth, a thing that can touch
>even the humblest life with nobility, because just
>as it requires that you humble yourself, however
>great, before the greater principle of God's Will,
>so it leads to the conclusion that no matter how
>humble your station, if you deserve the blessings
>of Almighty God, then you are, in that, the equal
>of the noblest, the greatest, the most powerful on
>the earth.  And indeed, far their superior if they
>deserve not the same.
>We today,  I think, neglect this to our great
>detriment.  Because we hold before our young
>ambitions for jobs and for money and all of these
>things; we set the world up in such a way that the
>ultimate paragons of achievement must be, I don't
>know, Donald Trump or Bill Gates.  But do you know
>something?  Let's be honest about it.  The vast,
>the overwhelming majority, 99.99% of us, will not
>end up being Bill Gates and Donald Trump, or
>coming anywhere close.
>We will reach a point in our lives, we have
>reached a point in our lives, we must reach a
>point in our lives, where we look around and
>realize that, in material terms, this is it.  And
>who knows how far we can?  The modest house, the
>modest car, the modest job.  No house, no job, no
>car at all.  At some point in every normal human
>life there will come that moment when we realize
>that we shall not "have it all."  That Helen
>Gurley Brown lied to us.  And that in point of
>fact, all of these material baubles are beyond our
>reach, and really always were.
>We were led around by those carrots to do this,
>and to do that, and in the interstices of our
>little desires, we were given a chance to indulge
>our little passions, and led to believe that this
>was happiness.  And then there comes a moment when
>we awaken to the truth, and find that we do not
>have it all; we have not had much of any of that.
>And in any case, what we tasted of it lasted for
>an instant, and was gone, and left us hungry still
>for something true.
>Is this really the idea?  Or rather is there a
>better idea of happiness?  One that understands
>that however much or little you may achieve in the
>eyes of the world, if you discern and cling fast
>to His principle of truth, if you discern and love
>always to seek and to serve a will, that Will,
>which has created your essence, which has mastered
>the world, which has created the whole, then
>within each and every one of us, however we may
>seem, there is a bridge.  And it aint to the 21st
>century.  It is rather that gateway, that bridge,
>that portal, which connects us to the Principle of
>all things, to our Creator God.
>Now, I happen to believe that standing right
>there, laid down as that bridge over troubled
>waters, is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We walk
>upon His broken Heart, in order to enter into the
>glory of God's favor.  But that sense, that the
>greatest power touches our lives, that the
>greatest beauty is also within us, and that the
>ideal of our achievement is not to be measured in
>our cars, and our houses, and our bank accounts,
>but rather in that happiness which comes from the
>simple virtue of humble obedience to God's will; a
>simple virtue which requires no revolutions, no
>battlefields, no wars, no glorious courts of
>statesmanship, but that can be within our reach in
>every home, in the love that one spouse bears to
>another, in the sacrifices that a parent makes for
>the sake of their child, in the respect accorded
>by the child to parents not perfect but,
>nonetheless, their gift from God:  in these humble
>ways we can achieve the greatest virtue; we can
>sit with George Washington and spurn the crown of
>pride, because we look for that laurel which can
>be given by no human hand, but which is there in
>the mouth of God:  "Well done, my true and
>faithful servant."
>Because, you see, character in the end is
>sometimes presented under the forbidding guise of
>self-denial;  but I think that's not true.  It's
>all right to seek reward.  No, the challenge is to
>understand which is the right reward.  It is all
>right to seek for happiness and joy.  The
>challenge is to understand the difference between
>the golden apples that turn to dust when we bite
>into them, and those which bear the succulent
>truth of God's Almighty Will.
>George Washington, I believe, understood that
>without a passion for that happiness, we cannot
>remain a free people.  But with that passion
>informing our desires, disciplining our will,
>flavoring our taste for life, we can in fact enjoy
>and pass along the blessings of liberty.  This is
>the lesson of his life.  It is a lesson for our
>time.  Let's hope we learn it, before it is too
>God bless you.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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