In 1796, the first President of the United States gave his famous Farewell Address, in which he declined to run for a third presidential term. George Washington spent four years writing it, getting help from the likes of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. His speech was printed and reprinted in all the new nation’s newspapers. It is the stuff of history books.

Washington eloquently called for national unity as the only way to save the Union. He urged people to think of themselves as Americans first, partisans last. He argued that while people had the right to change their government, they should only do so through peaceful, constitutional means. He asserted that “while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.” And so he exited the world stage humbly, gracefully, and in support of the American experiment in republican government.

Today, in front of a few hundred followers and hangers-on, the 45th President of the United States gave an impromptu farewell speech full of grievance and self-congratulations. No history books will recall what he said.

David Kuchta
Portland

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