As America reflects on President’s Day and where we are as a nation, it is sad that true Americans are vilified by a popular political “party,” and anything standing on ethics, morals and traditional values is ridiculed, mocked and frowned upon. This is a contradiction to the ideal of America. Those who first came to this new land were predominantly Christians who fled Europe because of religious persecution and/or the hope for a better life. This is documented through the writings of those who settled in Jamestown, Plymouth and even the Huguenots who settled in what is now Florida in the late 1500s. The “state of mind” of these early Americans was freedom of worship and enterprise.
Our first president, George Washington, gave great insight into what it means to be an American in his 1796 Farewell Speech. He said, “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.”
Washington pointed out that all citizens have independence and liberty in common. He said that for the most part, Americans share the same religion, manners, habits and political principles. That is, they were Christian; they were individualist, enterprising, and depended on the “national union” of our government “as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity.” It is for this reason that Washington believed Americans should be watching for the nation’s “preservation with jealous anxiety…and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
The Founding Fathers envisioned a limited government where citizens would give up some independence for the protections needed to have a civil society. In this way, the Founders used Exodus 18:20-21 as a guide to establish our Republic, “And you shall teach them ordinances and laws, and shall show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…” Self governance can only be accomplished through good citizenship. As you consider the present state of our nation and its leaders, perhaps measure them on the balance of Washington’s words and the premise of Exodus 18, and hold them accountable to the true American ideal.