tv President George Washingtons Farewell Address CSPAN August 6, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm EDT
up next on american history tv from the national constitution center in philadelphia, the editor in chief of the daily beat discusses his new look. the founding fathers warning to future generations. in a conversation with the mr. avlon argues that president washington warned to future generations about the ,uture of hyper partisanship and foreign wars. this about one hour. >> we are enormously fortunate today to have as our guest john avalon that is the editor-in-chief of the daily beast and the cnn political analyst. he's here today to discuss his new book, "the founding fathers warning to future generations, which has already been praised as a fantastic addition to national literature. please join me today and welcoming our wonderful guest.
[applause] john: thank you. it's an honor to be here. >> a great thing to be talking about george washington. in itself it tells us a lot. had you get interested in the project and why is the interest today. >> imagine if the first founding fathers sat down with alexander hamilton in james madison and wrote a memo to future generations, to us, specifically about the forces he feared. rooted in the lessons of his life and understanding of history. he did. that is the farewell address. it was the philadelphia executive mansion on market six street. and he wrote it over years as
the autobiography of his ideas. and it really was the sum total of his hard-won wisdom, john all the aspects of his life as a soldier, surveyor, father, statesman. washington doesn't always get the respect he deserves as a thinker. as a man of great wisdom. he wasn't a shining wit. he was enormously insecure. as opposed to the great confidence he felt as a general, as a farmer. he really did cultivate his character consciously to attempt to create a national character. the farewell address is in a normative gift. and it was understood as such for a long time. for the first 150 years of our republic. it was that foundational.
it was consulted by presidents and statement -- statesman is a lens through which to judge and guide decisions. the fact that it fell out of favor and is almost forgotten is itself a great opportunity for us to rediscover it at a pretty pivotal moment. i think a lot of folks are thinking about america as a civilization for the first time in trying to understand these larger forces of history that was sometimes recklessly play with. and we understand it as part of our birthright. recognizing that we have responsibilities as citizens to understand and apply that to the present so that we can pass it on to the future. that farewell address is an inspired -- is an inspiring document. it is durable wisdom and that is why it was such an honor to write the book. >> we will get into the real substance of the address at the
moment. it could be a good place to begin, recognizing that is not the first farewell address. getting farewell addresses was not something washington likes to do with something he had thought about before. >> he had a genius for goodbye. he understood -- and i think it's a measure of both his innate modesty and his understanding of politics that he knew that absence could be a higher form of presence. he knew that the person being pursued is always more desirable than the person doing the pursuing. washington's first farewell address was when he was on his commission as commander of the continental army. you have to understand, in a life full of firsts, this was the first decisive moment and it
was famous for its time. george the third. the pattern that history had provided over and over again is that the young leader. it and against advice, when there was an attempted to -- the dented coup, a mutiny of his officers. he decidedly steps off the stage. but when he does that, he is stationed in new york. it fascinating hamlet.
his headquarters still stand. the historically designated spaces. we recommend everyone visit. he doesn't do it as near as we can tell if any ghostwriters. he cuts his own quills. he writes a farewell address in the format on a circular letter to the states. and it was disseminated organically that way. as citizens, it is a time of great peril and a time of crisis. every other nation in the world is waiting for us to fail. the whole colonial powers. if we have all the advantages of geography. he spoke about geography as a
soldier and farmer often does. >> another bit of inherited wisdom is -- maybe democracy could exist. never 13 colonies on a long land. showing that we could focus on national unity. they couldn't get their act together with regard to funding the intercontinental army. they needed to really focus on investing in the success of society. they talked about the importance of paying your debts.
whether it was on a federal level, state level, or crucially to the soldiers and the pensions. it was a great source of pain. already he sought commitment to national unity. a focus on building national character. and containing what we would call hyper partisanship. they didn't listen to it during the articles of confederation and would eventually becomes washington. that was almost as famous as his farewell address.
it establishes crucially that the farewell address of washington's ideas. these are not hamilton ghost writing that washington sets his name to. that washington was a man of deep ideas. >> once he becomes president, and this is discussed. when it is brought back onto the stage, you talk about it a lot in your book. as he moves to the first and
second term. >> they focus this on the early days of the government. as carefully written as the constitution was, and why places like this. it is essentially a framework. what you fill it with is largely up to the president and the congress to create that precedent. and the first congress in lower manhattan, from new york city with a joint dual citizenship. in those cramped city streets, the markets exist in philadelphia because new york is
a place that reinvents itself. the first congress takes place in federal hall. they were making it up essentially as they are going on. they are debating how much the president is considered a king. the city of new york spruces up city hall. at the congressional library is the most popular book. it shows how much the precedent, trying to learn the lessons of history. so that they didn't follow the path. there hasn't yet been a democracy. there is an enormous amount of griping.
they are focused on supporting the bill of rights. that this was before the political parties, folks. washington himself is not a member of a political party. he's an independent as a matter of principle. the founders assumed. it would provide enough as we can see them. even going back to the constitutional debate, there is a natural cleaving into two very recognizable groups. folks, interim men distally rural areas, they are concerned about power and concerned about the ratification of the constitution.
there are folks that favor a strong central government that tend to come from cities. the division is obviously deeply reminiscent of democrats and republicans today. but that the characters of the country change. washington seems itself as someone who can bridge that divide. he recognizes that both groups believe they are fighting for freedom. already, civil wars have real possibility. through dueling partisan newspapers. medicine falls out when he throws all in with jefferson. at the same time, he's a man of enormous -- he's approachable by
design and that is why he's not as warmly beloved as lincoln is today. to see these folks as they were, as they saw themselves. we have the founding fathers. it makes wisdom's much less accessible. full of doubts. it makes the whole exercise of reading history so much more accessible. they are seeing in a sense that they can't stop the formation of
over the constitutional convention and had a unique status as being above party as a -- certainly, their work is inspired. and the outcome of the individuals is fascinating. he had a unique status of being above party. he had that authority. even as the founding fathers seem like this is was inspired and it is fascinating. there was seen as leaders of the party. washington was not. i think that space to the design. the federal party early forms around washington. he is exhausted and frustrated.
he doesn't feel like his job purports to his strengths. he wants to go home to mount vernon. martha doesn't even show up. he makes that trip alone because she's not too thrilled after having given him up for the time of the revolution. he is convinced and begins work with james madison who plays a really interesting role in the first two congresses. he is both a leader of congress and washington's chief legislator and aid. washington confesses to him, and there are notes that madison wants to retire. washington hears him, says i appreciate it, but i'm out of here. madison says he should publish it in a newspaper which he
eventually does. and, basically, a number of things occur. and the real problems for washington occur in the second term. washington becomes persuaded that if he leaves, the country could degenerate into civil war. he is aware that madison and jefferson have been attacking his administration through newspaper here in philadelphia, the national gazette. jefferson lies to his face when confronted about it. and he backs off the idea, doesn't formally announce it. we're at this point where he's not going to be persuaded to stay.
>> we are going to move to that time now where he is being persuaded. knows there is a value in this address. i am curious to know why he was formmined to put this into and at the same time consult with people who he knows do not get along. he was consulting with pamela and and medicine, it is a double restaurant. -- question. >> i think that partly, he's consciously trying to build a document beyond factions, beyond parties. that, really, if you wanted to steal washington's wisdom, he's very focused on us becoming an
independent nation. a phrase he uses a lot. the title of his first book was independent nation. that the deeper wisdom was this. that the independence as a nation is inseparable from interdependence as people. that is the core was done and he's entirely focused on national unity, creating a national character. and doing it through education. the greatest team of ghostwriters in history. hamilton does the second draft and plays him off his politics were he can claim the lion's share of credit for the words, not the ideas. to your point, he gets back together, the band of brothers
and does the federalist papers. it is a wonderful moment where we found out hamilton nj did the -- hamilton did the final edit. it's july of 1796. he is the elder pair of eyes. he and hamilton had a complicated relationship. a little bit father-son, a little bit hotheaded. and washington really tried to restrain his anger much like eisenhower. he felt he didn't have any advantages and was really struggling. the play hamilton, the musical, the song "one last time" was about the farewell address. the important precedent is this. it's not just that he sets the two-term tradition which was also not a given.
there was an assumption that residents could stay in office forever. it would've been perfectly logical. he said the two-term precedent which becomes part of the unwritten constitution until fdr violates it and we get an amendment. he decides to make the farewell address something that is carried on and carried forward. he could have easily done just a quick victory lap. look at all a great things i've done. i'm out of here. but he doesn't do that. specifically right to as a warning about forces he believed could destroy our democratic republic. and that gets carried forward. in almost every farewell address
, even president obama's farewell address which quotes washington's farewell warns about threats to our democracy. washington was really focused on paying it forward. he was riding in rewriting the document. in a former life, i was a speechwriter for new york mayor rudy giuliani. you see the line that washington is making. they are minute and he's writing because he's aware posterity will judge it. so he wants to clear away any misinterpretation. he is writing for future generations, for us, writing about the big topics. you can see all the politics of what we can get into in greater depth. the fact he right to farewell
address as a warning is one of his great gifts and one that gets carried forward. >> the great speech requires, in a sense, a great outlet. how does he end up settling on a place where he ends up choosing as a place to publish it. >> he chooses the american daily advertiser which is one of several papers on what was then high street and now market street in philadelphia. the model for this to the extent there was a model was a european king bidding goodbye to assembled parliament. medicine suggests he disseminates it in a newspaper. he is the president directly
addressing the american people. and it would disseminate organically and take some time, months to get to vermont and kentucky. so when hamilton is doing the major edits and advice, their corresponding between new york. hamilton is arguing cases in front of the supreme court, which is kind of fascinating in and of itself. washington asks what newspaper and he is suggested dunlop's american advertiser. it wasn't dunlop's paper anymore. it was his assistant. the federalist had a perfectly pro-newspaper they could've given it to. and the broad and different papers, you would have places
like the american aurora which was brutally attacking monarchy, competence, etc.. they were attacking jefferson, madison. washington didn't want to do that. the american daily advertiser was uniquely committed to that independent perspective. a cynic would say that the reason is they had a lot of congressional publishing contracts going back to the declaration. it did not make sense to throw in with one faction or another. there is a genuine philosophical point of view that that is where they felt the paper should be. independence is key to the integrity of a news brand.
we had folks that tried to write above the fray and believed that that was closer to the mission is journalists. washington sends out five blocks from the executive mansion, all the papers are located next to each other. and hate each other's guts. he sends out the top aide to bring a note down to david claypool and the president would like to meet you. a new sort of angled sofa on the fireplace. they kept a portrait of king louis of france. falling in love with the french revolution naively. he basically delivers the greatest scoop.
the things written for five years, they go very quickly. it is roughly the ninth anniversary of signing the constitution. just in the shadow of independence hall. washington gets a draft, washington makes final, very minute edits. claypool comes over with the final proof to say thank you. they've decided they are going to publish it. there's no weekend edition. to an afternoon paper. claypool expresses reluctance to part with it. washington impetuously says fine, you can keep it.
washington keeps his documents meticulously. he rewrites old letters, sometimes. claypool basically sits on a in refused to sell it and believed to be lost. washington leaves philadelphia that morning and with martha and a parent. the paper hits the streets and the news explodes. it's republished in papers in philadelphia, new york, passes along washington in that really fascinating way and his diary says almost nothing. i went home to mount vernon and resignation in the daily advertiser. that's it. >> i would ask you to get up and
deliver it, but we will save that for later. share some of the substance with us. it obviously withstood the test of time. >> i described them as pillars of liberty because that is a phrase washington and the founders used a lot. ishink the word liberty worth unpacking a little bit to understand why washington was focused on these core themes. we use the words independence and freedom and liberty as essentially interchangeable today, but i think to the founders, there were crucial differences and distinctions. the founders, particularly washington, was always focused on responsibility that comes with freedom. he understood, they understood, that freedom could be a state of nature. that liberty required responsibility. that self-government was a job
for a citizen that they needed to be invested in, that the citizens need to be invested in the success of the democratic republic for it to function. for that idea of pillars of liberty, these things were holding up the oedipus of our democratic republic. washington pointed out these core dangers, and they were really rooted in their understanding of ancient greek and roman history, and referred to in the constitutional debates and in the federalist papers. --hington was the warning was warning about the dangers of hyper partisanship. wasson was assessed -- obsessed with addressing this in the federalist papers. talks about how aging greek republics were torn apart by factions. in particular really understands that when these self-interested factions theck a democracy -- and
english civil war is very much within living memory of the that it fathers -- would create a very deadlocked legislature that would create such frustration on the part of average citizens that the inefficiency and effectiveness of democracy that it could open the door to a demagogue with authoritarian ambitions. washington and the founders were acutely aware of that pattern in human history, and they wanted to counteract it as best they could. they could do it institutionally to some extent, but also needed to lead by the strength of their example setting forth their wisdom. excessive debt was also a major danger, something more associated with the conservative side of the aisle as a focus, although our conservative
friends seem to forget it when it comes to actually passing it. -- washington and hamilton here is where hamilton's effort is crucially involved -- understood that debt was a force that could topple empires. it always had been. , washington and hamilton experienced at that danger especially during the revolution because the continental congress couldn't summon the political will to raise money to pay for soldiers. bullets, shoes, basic stuff. the british tried to use inflation as a weapon to devalue local currency. morris, --i'm robert washington and robert morris, who was imprisoned, was really the genius as the american finance system as much as hamilton. they understood the importance of that excessive debt could topple an empire because it
violated the concept of pre-generational responsibility. finally, foreign wars and entanglements. if folks know the farewell address today, they probably alliances,ngling of which doesn't appear in the address. it appears in jefferson's inaugural, was re-articulates washington's. he becomes a born again washingtonian once he becomes president. [laughter] >> keep in mind that washington is a young soldier, gets involved in the first skirmish that starts the french and indian wars and the seven years war in europe. the dangers of these sort of interconnected fates are very clear to him. one of the blessings of the united states is the atlantic ocean. he is constantly saying, don't throw in with these foreign powers. we will become a satellite.
they don't care about our national interest and they never will. he is guarding against that. will rogers had a great line about that. he said no nation ever had better friends than ours. the two best friends of america, the atlantic and pacific ocean. that is something we forget, but it really was a buffer. the other thing he was aware of about a better experience was the tendency of foreign nations to try and metal in domestic fares and elections -- domestic affairs and elections in our own. this was something the greeks and romans knew about. vladimir putin didn't make this up on himself. the referred to the waking philip of macedon try to the greek city states and give them foreign donations, and then buy off a couple of politicians and so discord, and make the state so we can divided he could eventually conquer it. even during washington's own time, poland creates the first constitutional monarchy, but the
russians and up buying members get:rliament and basically to disastrously agreed to a series of partitions that reduce it to a state between russia and prussia until it is absorbed. that is a temporary example that washington is contending with. mostly, it is france. france sends a member of the revolutionary government to foment against the at to convince washington to back away from the washington issues in the latest war between france and england. jefferson and madison are all in on the french side. there are riots in the street. john j is burned in effigy. there are riots around the constitution center. john adams calls for guns and weaponry to be bought -- to be brought to his house. the countries inflamed. the birth of the partisan system
is partly based on allegiance of the french revolution. washington's proclamation of neutrality is seen as a traitorous move against the french who supported us and desanto pro-british -- and de facto pro-british. washington understood we need to walk a middle line between monarchy and the mob. we could throw in with the british, and that hamilton also understood that anarchy was also the quickest path to tyranny. he's really furious when he writes the farewell address about the attempt of the french to undermine the integrity of our system and his government. distantmed like a concern when i wrote the book, but it is ripped out of the headlines today. while washington focused on warnings, he was too much a man of action to simply point out problems. he pointed out very clearly in these pillars of liberty sources of strength we should always focus on going forward. national unity.
it is obvious now. part of the danger of hyper partisanship was regional-based political parties that could lead to civil war. he called those folks who would try to divide us "pretended patriots." member that -- remember that. he talks about the importance of political moderation as a source of strength and a democracy, not a weakness. a great tradition rooted in classical wisdom taken from the ancient greeks and romans. we've forgotten that as well. political moderation is a source of strength, as the founding fathers understood it. he talked about the importance of paying down debt, fiscal responsibility. taxes are always going to be unpopular, but you need to pay the because it is immoral to pass off debts to another generation. but that some debt could be a good thing to a society. he talked about the importance of religion and morality to a self-governing people. this is the part that reagan always loved to quote.
i think it illustrates the way that the disparate messages of the farewell address resident -- address resonate with different communities. while he was not an orthodox christian, he took grief for not kneeling during prayer. he really understood the importance of religious pluralism and tolerance, and religion in undergirding a self governing society. religion was a great way of communicating reality -- communicating morality. education. washington was the least educated founded father, and therefore the most focused on national education. he wants to build a national education where the vice president's house now stands. he was so focused on it that hamilton kept trying to take it out of the farewell address, and washington kept putting it back. saveton ultimately said, most of that for your farewell address to congress. it is fascinating. washington's point is that
enlightened opinion is necessary to a self-governing society. the reason he wanted a national university also was to bridge the divide between states to create a common culture and character. civic education, which this organization is devoted to, is something we need to take much more seriously as a country. finally the importance of a foreign policy of independence. washington's advice on foreign policy has been mischaracterize throughout the ages and endorsed for isolationism. it was not. were a was focused on period of at least 20 years where he can build strength so we could be respected on the world stage and pursue our own interest and not confuse hours with that of another nation. all these pillars of liberty that washington focuses on common national unity -- focuses on, national unity, these are things that were intended for us to focus on going forward.
they can unite us across our disparate political tribes still today. it is just one of the fascinating gifts at the heart of this address. >> all of the pillars of course still resonate with us. i want to come back to them in a questions ineveral the audience touch on something that is absent from the pillars, and that is any mention of slavery. >> yes. >> what do we make of that? >> obviously slavery is the original sin in our society and in the constitution. even the constitutional debates, the founders basically kicked the can, said this is too contentious. we will not be able to get a constitution if we do with this issue. washington's relationship with slavery is notoriously complex. this is a subject of when i interviewed lin-manuel miranda
for the book, the playwright of the play "hamilton." we talked at length about this. it is understandable, but dangerous, to view the founders solely through our contemporary lens. lin-manuel miranda's point was we need to embrace the contradiction. that this is a man who speaks beautifully about freedom, who owned other human beings. you need to confront that contradiction. you can't ignore it. but then you need to transcend it. that is the sand in the oyster, he said. i do think that while washington sidestepped the question of slavery -- hereto he is still trying to forestall the civil war -- and the founders understood that the fault lines of the north and south with slavery were the most likely for civil war. washington as president is a , thenating example
conversation he has with attorney general randolph, where he says, if there's a civil war, i go in with the north. he feels captive with the cruel economy in a way that seems when late -- that seems wanly ironic today. what is fascinating is that the coda to the farewell address is his last will and testament. that is a point i make in the book a great deal. willnk washington's last and testament needs to be understood as the coda to his farewell address. he releases his slaves upon his death and his wife martha's death. most of them he inherited from his wife and her first husband. you could easily argue that is too little, too late, but it is worth remembering that he is consciously trying to send a message to the nation about the direction we need to move and
the side of this debate he is truly on. presidentsubsequent owned and bought slaves when they were an office and didn't release them at the death or end of their lives. washington did. it was against the grain, and he was clearly sending a message. again, understandable for folks to say it is too little, too late, but he was running for posterity even of the until that last moment. i think he does deal with it belatedly outside the immediate text of the farewell. >> we've already started talking about something that is a big focus in your book, and that is the afterlife of washington's farewell address. i want to touch on different aspects about the afterlife. it is no great surprise that every generation is going to want washington on their side, also to harken back to lin-manuel miranda. i want to see how the farewell address has fared in a sense through history. for example, during the civil war.
what do they make of it during the civil war? >> this is fascinating to me, too, because the farewell address is almost a rumor too many of us today. the play "hamilton" is the first time it has gotten a real shout out in a long time. you got to understand the centrality it has. reprints spiked during times of national crisis, particularly washington's death and the war of 1812. in the run-up to the war, it is bandied about because washington warns us against secession and disunity. andrew jackson's entire federal address -- entire farewell address is basically a rumination on washington's wisdom in the farewell address, saying when washington wrote that, we didn't know the constitution would work. we know it works now. daniel webster and other folks
are arguing both sides of it. uses a risk from the farewell address as part of his core 1860 stop speech justifying the newly formed republican party against attacks. it is a national party, and a party of progress, which i think is sometimes lost. during the civil war, the confederates tried to play washington as one of their own, too. they say washington was a southerner and a plantation owner and a slave owner and a when ofrgo one of us, course, washington's entire political life after the revolution was focusing on national unity. in the run-upbate to the civil war on whether the farewell address should be bought. his executors put it up for sale, and jefferson davis in the
future president of the confederacy, then mississippi senator, says this is a waste of federal dollars. of course, what he is trying to do is denigrate the message of the farewell. one of the reasons it is in the new york public library is it is bought by a private entity because congress was dissuaded from buying it. after the civil war -- sorry, it is the civil war, distributed among the troops to remind them what they are fighting for. after the civil war it becomes part of standard curriculum in american schools as a way of binding the nations would. there are all these destinations nds.n's -- the nation's wou students would commit to memory and win awards for oratory. they are memorizing this in school. this was a standard part of the curriculum. the explicit point was that maybe if we remembered the wisdom of washington warning --
we'd remembered the wisdom of washington's warnings, we wouldn't have had the civil war. it is a mainstay of debate right up through world war i. that is sort of the key pivotal moment. what is fascinating is you got a great debate around america's involvement in world war i and the league of nations conducted by two washington biographers, woodrow wilson and henry cavett lodge. they are debating whether we should get involved in our first overseas war. there's a total violation of everything washington says. what wilson tries to do is basically say, the wisdom of washington's warning needs to be updated, even if it is not totally outdated. it is really about expanding freedoms, and we should be in that business, as well. we need to be a good friend of the world stage, and makes that
case. henry cabot lodge is arguing more, we have never done ourselves the disservice by not following washington's wisdom. the ware war is as -- it is about joining the league of nations. obviously wilson wins that debate. after the war, the worst does not occur. america gets in and it is a relatively quick win. then the league of nations. companybot lodge and again invoke washington's farewell. its articles were seen as entangling, committing us to a potential war. at that moment, washington starts to seem less infallible. we had violated one of the clear precepts, and the end did not come. in fact, america seems to be
rising on the world stage. even though there's a fascinating. then after world -- a fascinating period after world address andarewell washington himself starts to take a dig. the gettysburg address rises in providence. the farewell address starts to fall out of favor. it is a fade. one of the most surreal moments in the book surrounds the rise of the group called america first, which was a group of folks who, informed by world war i, brandished the legacy of washington in the farewell, saying we should not get involved in world war ii. this is charles lindbergh, henry ford, a pretty wide group of folks basically saying that is not our fight. they use the farewell address as an argument for why we shouldn't get involved in a foreign war.
some of them are clearly motivated by anti-semitism. other folks just by saying that world war i was actually a mistake, let's not squander our advantage on the world stage. this is where the farewell address starts to get a hint of being salama -- of being synonymous with isolationism, which it never is. there's a moment which i think is fascinating just to discover it itself. in february 1939, there is a rally of the german-american bund at madison square garden. it is 20,000 american nazis that show up. abouta statistically ethnic pride, but there is a 30 foot banner of george washington flanked by swastikas. is all aboutpeech recasting and reappropriated the farewell address, saying that washington warned us against excessive debt, and the new deal has been too freespending.
he warned us we should focus on religion as the mainstay of our , and he warnedty us against foreign entanglements and being involved in foreign wars. now, what is fascinating about this odious misappropriation -- in addition to the photos look like an outtake from "the twilight zone" -- is that washington warned against exactly these kind of pretend patriots who would manipulate his wisdom and the founding wisdom and argue that dividing the country was representing the founder's vision for the country, when nothing could be further from the truth. in particular, the dangers of a foreign government trying to influence our own elections and internal decisions, and the german-american bund was eventually exposed as being taken money from adolf hitler. washington's farewell really
takes a hit between world war i and that association with isolationists and anti-semites. unfairly, it starts to fall out of favor. it is briefly revived during the vietnam war, when garry wills and others make a very high-minded argument for why involvement in vietnam is not consistent with the founding fathers' vision for america while nixon and co. were saying that it did. it's got this fascinating history. it was so central to american debates, and then it faded away. that doesn't mean it's wisdom is any less applicable. it is just a fascinating guide to how historical memory can add flow.ow -- can ebb and we shouldn't accept that they are diminished by time. >> a couple of questions in the audience asked about the parallel between washington's farewell address and eisenhower. you talk about this in the book. can you talk briefly about how eisenhower himself is influenced
by it? >> he really was a washingtonian. he was a reluctant politician. he thought of himself as an independent. and withtely through the republican party, and part because he felt that one party ruled, the democrats, since 1932, and that was bad for democracy. he was constantly at war with conservatives in his own party and thought about running as an independent. i found some memos that had been published from speechwriters that said, you should go back and look at the farewell address again. he focuses deeply on it. to thening military-industrial complex was originally the congressional military-industrial complex. [laughter] that maybeersuaded he was going to be alienating more people than he would attract and needed more influence. the entire speech and much of
his career is focused on these same pillars of wisdom, the virtue of moderation. eisenhower was deeply focused on that. the importance of avoiding excessive debt, a sense of generational responsibility, a distrust of hyper partisanship, ic education and national unity. that was his great gift. the speech itself and much of eisenhower's political career is based firmly on the foundation of washington and his farewell. >> our time is going a little short here, but there are so many other things i want to touch on. one thing i am so curious about is whether or not, given our technological advancement that we could even have something like the farewell address today. could we have -- is it unique to washington himself? is that special opportunity kind of lost, or no longer possible?
>> obviously you are dealing with a set of unique's, a president without precedent -- a ent.edent without preced is not goingessage to stand out in the same way. it is not going to have the same historical gravity. tot i think we can do is first of all recognize that we have those first principles articulated by the founding fathers, that they are not simply dusty old relics, but it is our responsibility as new generations of americans to dust them off and make the old stories new again because those principles don't age. principles are not rigid requirements. they are going to have different degrees of the portability at different times in our history. washington couldn't have foreseen the growth of technology that would shrink the distance of the ocean or give
rise to military-industrial complexes. as we have seen, certainly his warnings about the dangers of hyper partisanship, foreign powers trying to influence our debates and elections, and the influence of excessive debt, retained their applicability. that is what we really need to focus on. because washington is beyond partisan debates and because --itics is a thing perspective is the thing we have leased up in our politics. and theng on washington other founding fathers is especially important for us right now because it can we center our debates. you can provide a sense of common ground and purpose, where very little is evident, and that liberals and conservatives can find different bits of wisdom that comfort their own political face and others that can challenge them. ultimately we are living in a challenging time. this is a civic stress test.
, as citizens recognizing washington did, that we the people are the backstop in a democracy. ultimately there is no president , by design of our system, who can be expected to come save us. that we have got a balanced system, we've got checks and balances, but ultimately it is about we the people really guarding that gift that has been given to us from the founding fathers. taking that responsibility seriously, and understanding that i think it is probably time for a new generation of washingtonians to try and transcend the political divide to focus on first principles in an inclusive way along these foundational lines. because this speech, we don't need a new farewell. we can focus on the original wisdom and then update it for a new generation. we can do that amazing thing washington did, consciously trying to bridge the past, present, and future.
that is our responsibility, as well. we have this from the first founding fathers, and it's applicability is still relevant. it is timeless, but timely, and i would argue urgently timely. this is a great time to rediscover the farewell address, and i think for a new generation of what tony and to rise up and try in recent are our politics, try and refocus on civic foundations and move the country forward again. not left to right, but forward again. wisdom anded responsibility can help focus our debates in a constructive way going forward. we don't need a new farewell. i think we need to rediscover it and move it forward again. [applause] >> i know better than to try to do better than that. john will be downstairs talking
further about this wonderful book. there is no greater place to be talking about civic education, constitutional history, and have a guest of such enormous quality. thank you so much for being with us. >> thank you. [applause] announcer: you are watching "american history tv," 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter @cs panhistory for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. announcer: this week on american artifacts, we tour the american presidents like portrait exhibit at the herbert hoover presidential library and museum in west branch, iowa. north carolina painter and sculptor