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What Does the Future Hold, or Are We Still in the Past?

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Evelyn McCorristin Peters: What Does the Future Hold, or Are We Still in the Past?

Evelyn McCorristin Peters

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1.10.2011

What Does the Future Hold, or Are We Still in the Past?

Image courtesy of learnnc.org

January 9, 2011
Evelyn McCorristin Peters

Originally today was to be the day I started a series on what I learned as an Etsy seller my first holiday season. I will get to that but I wanted to express something else first.

In light of the recent events in Arizona this past weekend something I read on Saturday seemed particularly prescient. I have strong feelings about our government as I know so many do. But my strongest emotion over the past year has been confusion. When did so many in the government and for that matter people who care about the government become so openly hostile? What has happened to the polite discourse of opposing views. I in no way want everyone to always agree with me, it would just be so boring and stagnant. But I wish we could all be civil.

In that light I think it is particularly important that our government representatives set the example for all citizens of this country. They should show us all how competent and effective a Republic can be. Instead they bicker, are obstinate and say no just for the sake of saying no. These leaders should be well, "leaders!" They should be the shining examples we point to when teaching our children how they can make a difference in the world through persistence and civility.  I'm afraid that the majority are falling well short of these lofty but realistic goals. 

This past Saturday was the anniversary of our first President's State of the Union Address. It struck me how what he said could be said word for word today. Our troubles are still the same and our stubborness is still with us as well.  History continues to repeat itself, isn't it time to move on?

This excerpt comes for "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor.

It was on this day in 1790 that the first State of the Union Address in American history took place. George Washington delivered it in New York City, which was the capital of the U.S. at the time. He spoke before the Senate and House of Representatives, giving a fairly short speech, about the equivalent of three single-spaced typewritten pages.

He began the speech with the good news that North Carolina was joining the Union. He said that countries around the world seemed to be showing increasing good will toward the young American government, that the "respectability" of their revolutionary government was growing, and that the "peace and plenty" with which America was blessed should be considered good omens that the nation would be prosperous.

And in this speech, which he gave 221 years ago today, George Washington talked about the dilemma of protecting the borders, about the need for immigration reform, about how important it was for the nation to support scientific development, and about setting up national higher education. Washington ended his speech with a plea that Congress cooperate with him for the good of the American people. The words he used were these:

"Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:
... The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.”

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