In 1796 at the end of his second term, first President of the United States, George Washington had two major concerns. The first was that if he were to seek a third term and then died in office, it would be construed that the presidency was a lifetime position. The second was that the two political parties which had emerged during his presidency and to his dismay, Republicans and Democrats, would tear the nation apart through division of the people.
In fact, he declared that, “The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” He feared that political parties growing in power would interfere with the electoral process. As a patriot and former subject to the British Monarchy, he opted to not set the example that a leader should be in office for life. It also turns out his concerns on the people becoming divided over political parties was valid based on what we see in America today.
What is most interesting about his concerns is that he was a man who had lived under British rule and had fought for this country’s independence. Obviously, both of those experiences were still in his mind. What else is interesting is that no one, not anyone in Congress or in this country, has had those experiences. No one alive today can claim they have had to fight for America’s independence. Many have fought for others’ and to maintain our freedom, but not independence for themselves.
When those who govern are sworn into office, they are promising to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is done, in part, so they will be tied to the sacrifices of those who made this country a reality…men like Washington. It is their responsibility to remember for the rest of us what price was paid to deliver us from tyranny and oppression. It is their sworn duty to honor the choices of those early leaders and patriots who placed fairness, justice and the individual rights of the people above all else…especially their own desire for power and personal gain.
These who govern now are so removed from the origins of this country that they have all forgotten what their oath truly means. And it has come at a terrible price to the American way of life. If Washington were here today, I believe he would tell us that as those we elect have forgotten the spilt blood that was sacrificed for all generations of Americans and that they have lost all respect for the Constitution and its meaning. He would go on to say we the people have forgotten that we are to be self-governed and not conquered and divided by the few who believe in tyranny and oppression. The simple truth is, if we do not remember to govern ourselves through our actions of unity and the principles on which this country was founded, we have already lost our independence and once again become the subjects under the rule of a few.