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george-washington

George Washington’s Magic 8 Ball

By Susan DeLay

 

George Washington would have blown out 293 candles on his birthday cake on February 22, 2024—one for each of his 292 years, plus one to grow on. But who’s counting? And let’s face it, that many candles on a birthday cake are not a celebration. They’re a fire hazard.

 While he seemed to have spent the night in every inn and motel between Boston and Richmond, George Washington’s legacy extended far beyond sleeping around. He ran unopposed for both of his four-year terms, meaning our country’s first president was elected to office unanimously. He secured the popular vote and every one of the votes cast by the Electoral College. First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen. That’s our George.

A unanimous vote for an American president is something that has never happened again. Ever. And probably never will.

Initially,hind the trappings of Commander-in-Chief after only one four-year term. He summoned his head speechwriter, who happened to be future President James Madison, and requested he write a farewell address. Madison burned the midnight oil and wrote a brilliant speech, only to drag it to the trash bin when Washington was persuaded to stay in office for another term.

Following another unopposed run, it was back to the Oval Office, which actually did not exist until 1909. Technically, George went back to a plain rectangular office in Philadelphia. No political campaigns. No mud-slinging. No Iowa caucuses—mostly because there was no Iowa. Just gratitude to George from a new nation for his strong leadership.

Kinda makes you long for the good ol’ days, doesn’t it?

At the end of eight years, Washington had finally had enough as Chief Executive. He was ready to retire to his farm, raise chickens and make whiskey. He dug Madison’s farewell address out of the round file and turned to Alexander Hamilton to fine-tune his “I-promise-this-is-the-last-time” farewell address.

Most US Presidents have delivered a farewell address, but eight of them didn’t. Those who die in office usually don’t have time to pull one together.

Washington knew the exact date of his last public appearance as president, so he slipped in his dentures (no, not wooden), stood outside the red brick Congressional Hall in Philadelphia (the country’s capital), and delivered his 7,641-word speech containing core beliefs he thought should guide our young nation.

He warned Americans against the effects of political parties. He saw them as a threat to the health of the country because they allowed a small but enterprising minority to replace the delegated will of the nation with the will of a party. He cautioned against excessive debt, foreign wars, and the threat of foreign influence in our politics.

Makes you wonder if he had a Magic 8 Ball on his presidential desk. Doubtful, but feel free to Ask Again Later.

Washington figured his address would eventually end up in a museum and forgotten by all but the most zealous historians. What he didn’t see coming was that a future president named Abraham Lincoln would decree this 32-page handwritten speech be read before Congress every year as part of Washington’s birthday celebration. It was a morale-boosting gesture instituted during the ugliness of the Civil War, and it’s a tradition that continues to this day.

For three-score and six years, Washington’s farewell speech was the most famous in our country’s history. School children knew select portions of the speech the way they now know (or should know) the Pledge of Allegiance.

And you thought the Gettysburg Address would take the cake.

I cannot tell a lie. I thought so, too.

 

DeLay-Susan HeadshotSusan DeLay is from the Buckeye State where she took her first paying job at the age of 15, writing a newspaper column called Teen Talk. She lived in the Chicagoland area for 20-some years before giving away her shovel and ice scraper and moving to The Villages.

An industry veteran in publishing services, PR, and media relations, Susan wrote “DeLayed Reaction,” a newspaper column, for 25 years. The column is now a blog at www.susandelay.wordpress.com.

She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Florida Writers Association, Pen, Paper & Pals, The Writers League of the Villages, and Working Writers Critique Group. She is currently learning that poems don’t have to rhyme and is working on a novel entitled “Saving Jesus.”

4 thoughts on “George Washington’s Magic 8 Ball”

  1. What a wonderful insight to our first president. I enjoyed reading some facts about George Washington I never knew, and you did a great job sprinkled with your wit. Great job!

  2. Thanks Susan for your well written and lots of info in your paper. Sorry , but I don’t long for the “Good old days” with no A.C. in the Summer months and no gas heat in the Winter. I did have a coal stove for heat, but I grew up without air conditioning and I’d rather not experience those days again.

  3. Pairing a staid George Washington with a Magic 8 Ball is pure genius! I always learn from your stories and your wit is hysterically funny!

  4. You have honed your writing skills into an art form. bravo. Washington was right about political parties, would term limits work ?

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