En Familia, February 2023,
The month of February honors and recognizes the journey of Blacks in our nation. The history of social injustice and marginalization is contrasted with the narratives of so many who have found a way upward and forward. We celebrate their lives and contributions this month as we reflect on this year’s Department of Defense Black History Month theme, “Inspiring Change.”
February also celebrates Presidents’ Day. The history of this federal holiday goes back to President George Washington, as a celebration of his birthday. While this was not his intent or goal in any way, Washington’s supporters decided to keep his legacy by celebrating his birthday. It became a federal holiday in 1879. The holiday was moved from 22nd February to the third Monday in February 1968 as Congress passed a law to increase the number of three-day weekends (more 72s!).
A long-lasting tradition on this federal holiday has been upheld by the U.S. Congress. First done in 1862, it has been consistently done by the U.S. Senate since 1893. The House of Representatives ended the practice in 1984. Every year on George Washington’s birthday, a member of the Senate is selected to read the Washington Farewell Address. This year it will be read on February 27 at 3pm EST and will be broadcast live via C-SPAN2.
The Washington Farewell Address was written by Washington and a few of his supporters to notify the public that he was not running again for office after his second term. He never delivered this address in person, but it was printed in newspapers. His farewell projects a message of unity and reveals his hopes for our nation.
In one segment, he declares:
If benefits have resulted to our country from these services [presidential terms], let it always be remembered to your praise and as an instructive example in our annals that, under circumstances in which the passions agitated in every direction were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situation in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these states, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as well acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.George Washington’s Mount Vernon Website, Washington’s Farewell Address Transcript
Take a minute and read the entire address, particularly paying attention to the clear messages directed to all the citizens of our great nation.