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‘The Meaning of George Washington’s Birthday’

Monday is George Washington’s birthday, and it is Washington we should be celebrating—that model of character, principle and prudence.  And there is no better place to start than an extraordinary new collection, “The Meaning of George Washington’s Birthday,” by my AEI colleague Leon Kass and his wife, Amy Kass of the Hudson Institute. As part of their ongoing American Calendar project, the Kasses draw on speeches, stories, and writings about Washington to explore the history of his birthday holiday and follow his career from military scout, to colonial farmer, to general, to president of the United States. In so doing, they make a powerful case for Washington’s greatness, and why he should remain, in the famous words of Henry Lee, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

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Celebrating Washington’s birthday

George Washington was born on this day, February 22, in 1732. Today, take some time to read from his Farewell Address, which he delivered on September 19, 1796, before retiring to Mt. Vernon after completing his second term as President of the United States.

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Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.


Yesterday, January 16, was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you haven’t yet (and even if you have), we’d encourage you to take 17 minutes to sit and watch his famous “I have a Dream Speech,” delivered on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s easy to pass over the speech as its lines have entered American culture and we feel overly familiar with it–even if we haven’t actually watched King deliver it in its entirety before. This would be a real shame, for the speech–especially as King so forcefully delivered it–still moves us to call upon “the better angels of our nature” and remember the ideals our nation puts before us. Watch the whole thing here.

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A new tradition for Thanksgiving?

For the Fourth of July, many Americans read the Declaration of Independence before taking in the fireworks. Our friends at What So Proudly We Hail suggest a similar tradition for Thanksgiving Day: Why not discuss a classic American short story or a presidential Thanksgiving proclamation this holiday (or better yet, both) around the dinner table?

To help get the conversation started, the editors recommend O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Gentlemen” and George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789. (They note that Washington’s proclamation, in particular, is short enough for a dramatic reading before dinner.) Some possible discussion question for each text are available at WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org. Happy Thanksgiving!

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AEI