When Washington left the presidency, he issued a famous farewell to the nation, sharing the insights that he had learned over 40 years of public service. He encouraged unity over sectionalism, public service over selfishness, morality in life and leadership. He celebrated American achievement. And he warned about the dangers of hyper-partisanship.
This year, we could all use a dose of Washington's advice. Washington was not naive. He knew a free country meant that people would not easily agree, and that the spirit of party was “inseparable from our nature,” as it stemmed from the “strongest passions of the human mind.” Nevertheless, he also knew that unless we were careful, party spirit could drive neighbor against neighbor, and kindle the animosity of one part of a community against another. Such a fire, he noted, “demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” We can all ask ourselves whether, in this season of political battle, we have done enough to control the fires of party animosity.
We certainly need our leaders to emulate George Washington, but we also need citizens to learn from his experience and example. Yet we find ourselves in a moment when even the teaching of history has become politicized, when George Washington and our nation’s founding documents are being set aside for alternative curricula.
We should always strive to teach a more complete and inclusive history of the nation. A history that is not afraid to introduce its most tremendous achievements along with its moral failures. But we can always find our core strength in our founding documents. The basis of our political world comes from the idea that the people are sovereign, that we can govern ourselves, but that we have fundamental rights, which no one can take away. We teach these core stories every day at Mount Vernon.
I am excited to share this issue of Mount Vernon magazine. We filled it with stories of George Washington’s presidency, some of which may not be well known to you. You’ll learn who convinced him to run for a second term, who tried to get him to come back for a third term, how he made the presidency the “people’s office,” how he revered the Constitution. And you’ll get an up-close look at the chair he used as president.
Thank you for supporting the work of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Washington recognized that a free government ultimately rests on public opinion. That is why education is so crucial. Washington encouraged us all to “Promote … as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
We provide our students, our teachers, our parents, and our life-long learners the materials they need to become a better informed electorate—whether in person or virtually in classrooms. They come to learn about the nation’s founding, to learn about George Washington and his times, to understand the principles that made him such a leader.
Whenever people seek to divide us, let us look to Mount Vernon, and to George Washington’s legacy, for the understanding and the foundations that formed these United States. Mount Vernon is that common ground. As we look forward to a new year, I am eager to welcome you back to Mount Vernon, with the promise of a more perfect union.
President & CEO
A Special chair, must-read books, adorable
lambs, and more Read
Reservations supervisor Argery Cooke ensures
you’ve got the ticket. Read
Dine Dellenback honors her husband with
the gift of education. Read
An unfinished portrait of Elizabeth Powel
paints a picture of power and presence. Read
In difficult times, New Mexico teacher Juan Armijo
relies on digital tools. Read
When is a “unanimous” election not really
Flashback to 1939: 150 years later, Mount Vernon re-creates Washington’s departure for his inauguration. Read
A Homecoming event and the 19th annual Spirit
of Mount Vernon. Read
How Elizabeth Powel’s eight-page letter convinced a reluctant president to run for a second term.READ THE STORY
The secret plot to push Washington into a third term.
What do the presidential portraits of George Washington say about him, the artists who depicted him, and the country he helped build? A story in pictures.READ THE STORY