POINT PLEASANT — Though the guest of honor was a “no show,” his presence was definitely felt.
On Monday, the Mason County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution decided to get creative with honoring George Washington on his birthday.
SAR Chapter President Ed Cromley said he had read about others recreating and reciting Washington’s farewell address and how it relates to many issues facing America now. As the speech is around 45 minutes long, Cromley and SAR members shortened the presentation and made it more accessible to a modern audience. A component of that was having Cromley’s daughter, Brooke Price, present each point with a contemporary introduction, which juxtaposed Cromley’s delivery of Washington’s actual remarks. This contrast also included Price dressed in modern clothing while Cromley was dressed in colonial wear. Still, this contrast provided connection to those who attended the presentation.
Some of “Washington’s advice” taken directly from his writings, speeches and particularly his farewell address, were shared with those in attendance and included:
Relying on God. Religion and morality being necessary for good government. Honesty always being the best policy. Avoiding an accumulation of national debt. Avoiding special interests. Developing a formula of peace which relies on the enemy knowing the United States is ready for war at any time. Preserving the Constitution. Avoiding foreign influence. Not expecting favors from other nations. Patriotism, and thanksgiving, literally — the latter of which Washington proclaimed as a national holiday.
Washington’s farewell address of 1796 was even made into school books and, despite some of the antiquated delivery and terms, the message remains relatable to Americans in 2016. For example, he warns about the divisiveness of political parties when those parties become excessive in their political spirit, which is something Americans are exposed to almost by the minute, especially in an election year.
On this subject he wrote: “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Amid the warnings of factions and alliances with foreign interests, Washington also hit upon a commonality among Americans and how to be cohesive. He wrote: “Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”
In all, the address is 32 handwritten pages and originally printed in Philadelphia’s “American Daily Advertiser” on Sept. 19, 1796. Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22, 1732.
Presenting the colors at Monday’s celebration were Cromley, Jack Coles and the SAR president for West Virginia Steve Hart, under the direction of John Sauer, state color guard commander and local SAR member. Hart said the Point Pleasant chapter was the first in the state he was aware of, that held this type of event honoring Washington. Cromley said he hopes to continue the event next year.
Birthday cake and refreshments were also provided to those visiting the ceremony on the second floor of the Mason County Courthouse on Monday.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.