Dr. Richard Gruetzemacher Constitution Day Lecture 2018
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Dr. Richard Gruetzemacher Constitution Day Lecture 2018

September 23, 2019


– My name is Lucien Ellington. I’m an education professor at UTC and I direct the Center
for Reflective Citizenship, which is an organization that is dedicated to civic and history education through liberal education and Constitution Day, this is our eighth
Constitution Day celebration. The Constitution, the
delegates signed it in Philadelphia on September the 17th, and bipartisan legislation
introduced in the Congress. Any institution that
receives federal funds is required to do educational activities on the Constitution the
week of Constitution Day. And this year we’re flexible, we’ve done it on the 17th
but we moved it specifically because I wanted to bring you the speaker that you’ll hear in a few moments, and also, this kind of
event doesn’t just happen through magic and I am honor bound to recognize many of the
people who made this happen. One, unfortunately,
she’s missing her first Constitution Day ever because she’s at a university accreditation. She’s a dean, but Dean Valerie Rutledge who was instrumental in the
College of Health Education and Professional Studies
and helping us put together the Center for Reflective Citizenship. I’d also like to recognize Luann DeWitt for the work that she’s done on Constitution Day and recognize two, but actually six people, but two people who are particularly helpful who are you, the CRC faculty fellows. We have six faculty fellows
who are outstanding teachers. Public school teachers,
private school teachers, a home school teacher and they all work to promote Constitution Day and as I call your name, please stand. Linda Mines, just I’m gonna
get all my faculty fellows off. Okay, Pam Fields.
(audience applauding) They’re good, but you can hold
your applause if you like. Jeremy Henderson.
(audience cheering) And Hunt Davidson.
(audience applauding) Mike Breakey. (audience applauding) Also, Matt, last but
not least, Matt Logan. (audience applauding) Words can’t express my
gratitude to all of you. This is also an unusual Constitution Day, because the Constitution
Day, if you’ve got the public lecture brochure you’ll see it is now the Dr. Richard Gruetzemacher Constitution Day Lecture Series. Some of you who were at
UTC knew Dr. Gruetzemacher. He was a beloved faculty and staff member. He was director of institutional research and died a couple of years ago, but he started his career as
a high school history teacher and had a lifetime love of
American history and civics. I want to recognize the
Gruetzemacher family who are here, and their willingness to let us name the lecture series after him and also create an endowment fund for the lecture series, so if I could ask the Gruetzemacher, the family to stand. (audience applauding) Thank you, and if you
wish to find out more about the Richard Gruetzemacher Constitution Day Endowment Fund, you can find, it’s in the literature, if you’re interested in that. And now let me move to the
speaker to maximize his time, and I’ll just mention that
we always do a minimum of 20 minutes for Q and A,
and we get robust questions, not speeches but questions and dialogue, and I’ll make a comment when
Professor Gregg finishes and you can walk around and queue, the best thing to do is
queue up for the mic. It saves time, we get more questions. But now, about Professor Gary Gregg. He holds the Mitch McConnell
chair in leadership at the University of Louisville and is director of the McConnell Center. He’s published extensively. He’s a political scientist by training. He’s published extensively
on a number of issues related to political
science, but specifically, has done very interesting
work on George Washington. And we try to pick speakers who can speak to a broad audience and one of
the things that attracted me to Gary was that he has also authored two young adult novels, so he certainly has the ability to speak
to a diverse audience and I’ll mention finally, he’s involved in a really interesting, those of you who like liberal education, a really interesting job for the Pentagon. He’s teaching majors and captains in intensive educational programs. He’s teaching Plato,
he’s teaching Thucydides, he’s teaching, really,
classical liberal education to rising army officers. So without further ado, Gary,
I’ll turn it over to you. (audience applauding) Oh, and I apologize. I wanted one other, two
other announcements. I want to recognize the John Ross chapter of the Daughters of the
American Revolution, who have a booth outside
and they’d be happy to give you information,
and last but not least, the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge who also has information outside that you’re welcome to take. – Thank you, Lucien. What you just witnessed was why
you never put two professors on the stage at the same time. You can’t really get rid
of one of them, at least. (audience laughing) He’s just gonna sit here, I guess, in case he wants to take over. Thank you, Lucien, thank
you for that introduction. Thank you for the invitation
to be here tonight. Thanks to the Center for
Reflective Citizenship and the College of Health Education and Professional Studies here at the University of
Tennessee at Chattanooga. Really an honor to be here today, here at the home of the Mocs. I’m told I need to do this now, can I get a go Mocs?
– Go Mocs! – See it worked, Alayna. That’s pretty cool. So I’m from the University of Louisville, so our thing is we do els. We put up our els for U of L. What an honor it is for me to give the Richard Gruetzemacher
Constitution Day Lecture for 2018. When I saw you all file in, we were talking up here, I
said I would have changed my lecture if I would have realized that the average age in
the audience was 16, 17. Which is pretty awesome. What’s awesome about that is,
when I do talks like this, well, I just did one in
Pittsburgh just yesterday. I should, we’re recording this right? I hope they don’t see this. The average age in the
audience was probably 72 in that audience and that’s how
most programs are like this. So this is really fabulous
that you guys are here. Thanks to your teachers, kudos
for getting you out here. So your job, some young,
in fact, I have a gift for whoever, some young
person in the audience that asks me to talk about in Q and A about young George Washington because that’s what I would have given you a lecture on if I would
have realized that. So now you can be bored out of your mind listening to what I have to say now. I hope not. I do have a lot to say and
so I’m gonna get to it, and if you’ll pardon me I’m
gonna stick pretty close to my script because I’ve
got some important things I wanna talk about tonight, and I think it particularly important in 2018. So I hope you’ll stick with me here. 2018 Constitution Day
and I wanna talk to you about a man who, without
whom, quite literally, the constitutional order
would be inconceivable. It would be unimaginable. He was, as one of his famous
biographers called him, the indispensable man. And tonight I also, in 2018,
wanna talk about character. I wanna talk about leadership,
and I wish to put before you, before your mind’s eye tonight, a man who was beloved
by his fellow mortals and was risen to near sainthood by some of his most ardent enemies. I wish to have you believe that in 2018, despite all that we see around us, all the turmoil, all of the divisiveness, all of sometimes the disgusting nature of our political discourse,
that it has not always been this way, and I wish at the end, that you can believe that it
doesn’t have to be this way. Tonight, in our age of political
division and partisanship, I wanna talk about statesmanship. In an age of division,
I wanna talk about a man who strove mightily to be above
the divisions of his society and to bring his people together. In an age of stream of
consciousness tweets and Facebook posts and Instagram photos, I wanna talk about a
man who kept his counsel and spoke only when he thought he could make a constructive difference. In an age of scandal, I wanna talk about a man who attempted always
to remain above reproach. In an age of informality,
I wanna talk about a man who acted always with
dignity and great care and acted only after deliberation. In an age of self-centered arrogance, I wanna talk about a man
who was the greatest man in the world, but gave
the glory to providence and to his countrymen and
permitted others to shine. In an age of ideology and partisanship, I wanna talk about a man
who served the Constitution and warned his countrymen about the perils of partisanship, or what he called the spirit of party. In an age of celebrity, I wanna introduce you to actual greatness. In an age of constitutional crisis, I wanna talk about a man without whom the Constitution itself
would not be possible. In an age of reckless rhetoric, I wanna talk about a man of prudence. A man who sheathed his own desire to fight in order to save the cause, a man who kept us out of foreign wars in order that we might
secure the blessings of liberty at home. In an age where nearly
everyone seems to end their careers in scandal
and slink off into oblivion, I wanna talk about a man who understood the importance of endings, who always made endings matter. And I hope my ending tonight will matter in some way to you and your life. You see, George Washington
never simply left his station and moved on, but always
sought to use his exits as moments of service and statesmanship. His farewells to his army
and his resignation speech at Annapolis, are great examples of that. The most famous is his farewell address that he delivered as
he prepared the nation for his leaving of the
presidency after his second term. I’m gonna come back to
that in a little while. But before we dive into those farewells and those texts, I wanna take a minute, let me take a minute to talk particularly to the young people in
the audience tonight. If you don’t pay, I know
you have notebooks there, which your teacher is very good, because obviously they’re forcing you to have some kind of report or
something, which is awesome. Thank you, teachers. If you get nothing else out of this, and I hope you get a
lot out of this tonight, but if you get nothing else out of this, I hope you’ll learn a lesson
that I think is so vital. And I thought about when I
was putting this together and that’s the basic
premise I wanted to have. It’s a simple phrase,
write these two words down. Endings matter, endings matter. It matters how you leave a place. It matters how you leave a relationship. It matters how you leave a job. We’ve all been told from a young age first impressions are what count, right? And that’s partly true, your parents didn’t completely lie to you. That is true, first impressions do count, but last impressions
are what actually last. Last impressions are what actually last. At this point, I have
some examples of divorcees and things being angry and
I’m gonna skip those now and we’ll give you some others instead. But how many of us remember politicians that end their careers in scandals? How many remember the good
things that they did before that? How many of us remember the police officer who did good work but
then ended their career, ended up in some kind of
abuse of power scandal? How many of us remember, how
many imagine a conversation with a boss who says, hey, Jim was a great employee, right? Let’s remember the great
things he did for the company. Let’s just ignore that he embezzled, you know, he’s now in jail, right? We’ll ignore that, just great stuff. How you leave a place is
what people will remember and it may be the only
thing they remember. That’s a leadership lesson, I think, that is very clear in the
life of George Washington. And so I hope you remember it today. How many are seniors in high school here? You’re preparing to
leave your high school. I will guarantee you,
nobody’s gonna remember five or six years from now
what you did as a freshman if you did great things. They’re gonna remember
if you’re a jack wagon your senior year.
(audience laughing) Don’t be a jack wagon. What’s Washington have to do with this? I think quite a lot, actually. Washington, you see, made leaving and moving on quite an art. We’ve all heard of servant leaders, kind of a phrase that’s
kicked around a lot in the last 20 or so
years, servant leadership. I wanna call Washington
tonight a steward leader. A steward leader, for he
always took on positions knowing that he was in the service of a greater cause than himself and that he had a responsibility to take care of the place
while he occupied it and ensure it was provided for
appropriately when he left. In his various roles, he
would steward his men, his army, his country
through the challenges they faced at the time, and then strove to leave them
stronger and better prepared for the challenges that would come later. He was a steward leader,
realizing any position he held he held temporarily to steward and then pass on to someone else. And part of that stewardship
would be his farewells, the words he spoke, the actions he took, the dignified strength that he portrayed to educate, inspire, and
strengthen those to come. What gave Washington this understanding of the importance of exits and farewells? Well, I think Washington,
I don’t think, I know, Washington was an avid theater
goer throughout his life and he conceived of life itself as a grand stage upon which we act. His letters and his speeches
are full of references to the theater and to stagecraft. He understood himself
to be playing a part, a part before a wider public
both at home and abroad, at his time and in the future. He realized that, like attending a play, others paid attention to
his words and his deeds. He conceived of leadership,
at least in part, as playing a role and was
determined to play his role right, including being ever mindful
about how he left the stage and what the audience
would think when he did. He didn’t always get his farewells right. As a young man in the
wilderness of Pennsylvania, guess I will talk a little bit about that. He bragged, he was selfish, he made selfish demands of his superiors, he was an arrogant redhead,
which all of us redheads are arrogant and prideful
and anger filled people. At least I was when I, once a redhead. As a young man in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania,
he oversaw a massacre. He oversaw the assassination
of a fellow officer, and he started a world war. His arrogance led him to defeat at a place called Fort Necessity, and he left his first military
position in humiliation. But one of the great life
lessons of George Washington, young people, pay attention here. One of the great lessons of the life of George Washington is
that he was not perfect. He made mistakes, but in the end he learned from those mistakes. He checked the worst
instincts of his character and those experiences that he had prepared him for greatness. And so about 20 years after his first humiliating military experiences, he was ready to take command,
to defeat the greatest empire in the world, to father a country and to change the world with his farewells that I’m gonna talk about tonight. Let’s begin with his most famous farewell, the farewell address that he gave when he resigned the presidency. And in case you don’t
know, I shouldn’t say it, ’cause I know the way I just phrased that sounds like he gave a speech. When he says farewell address, none of these were speeches,
they were his written documents printed in newspapers for
the American people to read. The farewell address is read every year on the floor of the United States Senate. The Senate picks a senator to read the farewell address. You should all read it. We did a study of it today
in a seminar here on campus, and it was a really terrific
conversation, I think. We all know of his
resignation after two terms and his heading home to Mount Vernon, which established a precedent so deep in the American political experience that it lasted until 1940, after which, then we codified it in
our fundamental law. His humility tamed his power. His precedence tamed the
power of the ambitious that would come after him. What we don’t remember is
what he actually attempted, that he actually attempted, I should say, a farewell after his first term. He even had a draft of a farewell address prepared at that time. He was tired, he had served his time and he was ready to retire. He had established the government and survived a term as its
presidents, as president with his valued reputation still intact. But James Madison and
others prevail upon him that the nation would not
survive without him at the helm. So despite his reservations, he agreed to put off his retirement and continued to serve. Washington also knew when duty called him not to leave the stage,
not to bid his farewell. When it was time to leave,
he prepared his people with the farewell address that as I said, is still celebrated today
on the floor of the Senate and read by a seminar at least
in the world somewhere today by 20 of us here on campus, but it’s almost not read anywhere else, and seldom consulted in
any serious way, I think. In this address, however, Washington used his immense respect to
teach essential principles of good government and
American constitutionalism. He urged on them, his readers, a fidelity to the Constitution and a
resistance to what he called the spirit of innovation
against its principles. Changing the Constitution, he taught only through Article Five and
the amendment process. He urged them to test the ideas of the constitutional order by experience and to give the Constitution
time to prove itself. He warned against the spirit of party in a way that we can all use as a very important
reminder today in our world where partisanship seems to drive almost all reasonable
conversations out of politics. Washington reminds us
to stand by principle and patriotism, not parties or presidents. He reminds us that good stable
constitutional government is based on serious deliberation and not on partisan warfare. He challenges us today with language that would shock many modern ears. He talks about, and I quote, virtue and morality as necessary springs of popular government, and
he says that public happiness depends on religion and morality. He warned us against permanent alliances, and as if speaking directly to
the daily headlines in 2018, and at this point I’m gonna pause and say your imagination needs
to be going now to Washington and the Mueller investigation
and Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer and whoever you want to throw into this mix. Listen to what Washington
warns us of in 1796. He says, he speaks against, quote, the insidious wiles of foreign influence. Insidious wiles of foreign influence, and then he says, I
conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens, he was
pleading on his behalf, please listen to me, fellow citizens. He says the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake since history and experience prove
that foreign influence is one of the most baneful
foes of republican government. And he lines foreign
influence up with partisanship and warns foreign countries aligned with American political parties
would be the great danger to republican government. But he goes on, if you’re
not chastised by that, then you’re on the other side and you’ll be chastised by this. He says, but that jealousy, to
be useful must be impartial. To be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument
of the very influence to be avoided instead
of a defense against it. How America in 2018 could benefit from many of the lessons Washington sought to teach his generation and
the posterity that would follow as he exited the presidency and returned to private life on his farm. But everything he did as
president was based on what he accomplished and what he learned as commander-in-chief
of the Continental Army. And let me submit to you for
our purposes here tonight, that it was all based, what he
learned and I suggest to you, the American constitutional order itself, it’s actually based in what he did at the end of the American Revolution. It is his farewells where we will find the key to America’s future. Farewells that were of
massive historic importance in their time and were
masterfully crafted by Washington. Let’s go back, if you will,
to the American Revolution and see how Washington
ended that enterprise and how he established the foundations of America’s constitutional order. Joseph Ellis, one of his biographers, from probably the early 90s or so, called this period that
I’m gonna to talk about now and the remainder of my time, the last temptation of Washington. The last temptation of Washington. I realize no student in the room knows what the heck that means,
some people my age might. It’s not that important,
but we should pause and we should remember this
temptation of Washington, and be grateful for his republican virtue. He had defeated an empire,
he had the charisma and the command of an emperor. His men would have crowned him and crossed our Rubicon
at the sound of his voice. It seems to me that we lightly dismiss the reference of Washington
being offered the crown. I dismissed it through most of my life. I thought it was a easily dismissed fable like him having wooden teeth or chopping down the cherry tree, neither of which of those are true, I hate to burst your bubble. I mean, just think of
it for a moment, people. If you’ve told people he had wooden teeth, just think about it
(audience laughing) for a second and you realize
he couldn’t have wooden. How’s he gonna eat with wooden teeth? But we should not so lightly
pass over this moment, for he was offered the crown, but more importantly still,
he could have demanded it and who could have stood in his way? Indeed, in the spring of
1782, Colonel Lewis Nicola would write to Washington. He wrote to Washington
and told the general of efforts among the officer corps to set him up as the
next monarch of America, a temptation that would
have been the better of almost any conquering
general before him. Washington’s rebuke of Colonel Nicola was swift and it was sharp. He said that knowing
such ideas even existed within the army was more
painful than anything he had experienced in his
eight years of the Revolution. Washington had resisted
the eternal dream of power and passed the test of
republican leadership. When the war was won and
the peace treaty signed, Washington did not spike the
ball and dance in the end zone. Instead he took up the task
of ending the Revolution well and specifically, in
teaching republican virtue and the necessities of
creating a stronger, more balanced central government to his soldiers and his fellow citizens. This is a period of Washington’s service that almost no one pays attention to, and I think is pretty
fascinating and very important. Four years before the
Constitutional Convention, it was Washington himself
calling for just such a meeting to revise the Articles in Federation. He was not a passive latecomer to American, that movement
toward a new constitution as almost universally he
is described in textbooks. I can talk about his lessons
of what he tried to do there. I’m gonna skip through
that though for now. If you’re interested, we’ll
talk about it in Q and A. But I want to talk about what happened on December the 23rd, 1783. December the 23rd, 1783. His capstone moment for
the American Revolution. It is a moment that changed history and that we, if we were
worthy, frankly, of Washington, if we were grateful at all,
we would remember today and we would celebrate. This is the day the conquering general, the man who defeated an
empire, laid down his sword. He gave over his commission
and in his words, he demonstrated humility,
thanking providence for victory and independence. He doesn’t brag, he doesn’t
call out his own exploits, he doesn’t proclaim his own greatness. He asks God to look after his country and its leadership and
says, having finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action. And then he uses his actions, what we can think of
as symbolic leadership, to sink this precedent
that he was setting deep into the republic to come. He made it clear that
no man, not even a man as great as himself, was
above the elected officials in a republican form of government. As Washington prepared to
leave the room in Annapolis, he made a stately bow to Congress. Congress, in turn, tipped their hats to Washington but did not bow. That’s something that would
mean nothing to us today, but it meant everything at the time. I’m gonna call him the
greatest man in the world because that’s what, supposedly at least, King George the Third
called him for this act. This was the greatest man in the world, let’s call him that for a moment, bowing to the superiority
of a bunch of politicos who were incompetent throughout the war but he was helping establish a republican form of government. The symbolic actions were essential. His actions that day shook the world. We take them for granted,
some of you may not even know what happened, some of you do, some of you have never thought about it, but I will tell you in the 1780s, it absolutely shook the world. King George the Third is said to have told Benjamin West, the artist, that if he did it, because
King George the Third didn’t believe he would do it, but if he would do it, then he would be the
greatest man in the world. The painter, Jonathan Trumbull,
was in London at the time and when word reached London
of what Washington had done, Trumbull captured it this way. I quote from Jonathan Trumbull, ‘Tis a conduct so novel, so inconceivable to a people who, far from
giving up powers they possess are willing to convulse
the empire to acquire more. In this moment, Washington
became America’s Cincinnatus. The man’s so virtuous, so patriotic that he defeated his country’s enemy and instead of taking power and instead of taking wealth, he gave up his sword
and he gave up his army and he went home to his farm. And if that, what I’ve told you so far, is not good enough, the farewells, good enough to demonstrate
the greatness of Washington and his farewells and their importance, I want to go back one last
story, one last moment. I’ll go back a little
further, still at the end of the American Revolution,
to a moment where I’m going to argue now the
American republic was saved and American history changed dramatically. For before he resigns his commission, which is absolutely
momentous and earth shaking, he does something maybe
even more extraordinary and much more challenging. I want to argue that he saved
the republic, as I just said. Take a journey with me
now into your imaginations up to the Hudson River Valley. The years are 1782, 1783,
and particularly the spring of 1783, from the story
I’m going to tell you now. We’re in a place called
Newburgh, New York. You could visit Newburgh,
you can visit Washington’s, I did last year for the first time. Don’t go on Sunday, because
I did and it was closed. Nonetheless, it was great
to stand outside the gates and look at Washington’s
headquarters from there, overlooking the Hudson. Newburgh, New York, 1782 to 1783. The war had been won. If I asked most Americans
when the American Revolution was ended, if Americans, I think, know anything enough
to even guess at that, they’d probably say Yorktown, so yeah, that’s the last battle, right? We defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown. I submit to you that is not the end of the American Revolution. That is when we defeat the
army on the battlefield, but there is no peace treaty for months and months and months. The redcoats don’t just disappear from the North American
continent, the redcoats are here. They are stationed in numerous places across North America,
including a massive grouping of them, battalions of
them, in New York City. The peace treaty was not negotiated. British forces remained on the continent, and Washington had every
reason to be suspicious that the war was not over, that the Brits were biding their time. Washington said this, and I quote, “The king will push the
war as long as that nation “will find men and money,
admits not a doubt in my mind.” His challenge, which may be his greatest leadership challenge ever was to hold that army together, hold the Continental Army
together in Newburgh, without an enemy to fight, but the Continental Congress continued to prove impotent. There was no money, they were no help. The soldiers had not been paid. Washington would write this to
Major General John Armstrong. I quote, The army, as
usual are without pay and the great part of the
soldiery without even shirts. And though the patience of
them is equally threadbare, the states seem perfectly
indifferent to their cause. The soldiers were desperately hungry. The horses were being allowed to starve. Rumors of resignations
and mutiny were in the air and it’s easy to put yourself in the shoes of those officers tonight. Think about it just for a moment. You have been, for years in the field. You haven’t seen your wives, you haven’t seen your children, you haven’t taken care of your farms. You are not being paid, you
are not being fed adequately. You’re not even being clothed adequately and yet, you are organized
and you have weapons. You have an army, you have cannon. Do you think Congress is
actually gonna pay you when you go home, if
they’re not paying you now? It’s easy to see, easy
to see how these officers can be moved to mutiny, can be moved. Why not just push, we
have the strength now. Move when you have strength. Act when you’re from a
position of strength, not a position of weakness
when you’re disbanded at home and back on your farms. The war was won, but the
road toward true peace and free government would be equally or maybe even more treacherous. All could be undone at this moment, if this moment wasn’t
handled absolutely right. A small delegation of
officers was dispatched to Philadelphia to
petition Congress directly and report to them and I quote, We have borne all that men can bear. Our property is expended, our private resources are at an end. I have to be very delicate
with what I say now, because I know we’re in
Hamilton County, right? I wouldn’t have given
this speech if I realized we were in Hamilton County,
but I’m this far in, I have to pull the trigger here. That’s not a Hamilton joke
about him being assassinated. I’m sorry that’s too soon,
(audience laughing) trigger alert, I should
have said there, it’s bad. We are in Hamilton County, but let me say that Alexander Hamilton is not innocent in the events that are about to unfold. Hamilton, far from being innocent, in fact wrote to George Washington. He wrote to Washington himself,
on February the 13th, 1783. To suggest that a moderate
revolt of the officers, if kept within bounds, might prove useful in persuading what he called
the weak minds of Congress. Moderate revolt of the officers. Against Congress. I just want that to sink in for a moment. I want you to imagine now American history if that would be the precedent. If the precedent was set
by our founding fathers that when the military
doesn’t get its way, it marches on the civilian government, because that’s the stakes
involved in this moment. Fortunately, George
Washington was more prudent and more republican than his former aide. And Hamilton was not alone in this, Hamilton was only one of the mouthpieces that was willing to speak
up to Washington about this, because they had such
a great relationship. Washington knew well the
depths of the discontent but would have none of such a scheme to force the hand of
the civilian government. He replied despairingly to Hamilton, of what he called the forebodings
of evil within the camp, which he felt, quote, May be productive of events that are more to
be deprecated than prevented, but then at the end of
the letter, he says, I am not, though, without hope. He then warned Hamilton that
soldiers were not mere puppets and that the army was a dangerous
instrument to play with. The crisis came to a
head on March the 11th when a conspirator circulated
an anonymous pamphlet calling for a meeting of the officer corps to voice grievances and
to coordinate action. Then, a second anonymous
note was circulated, and this one added for that the officers should suspect the man who would advise to more moderation and longer forbearance. This is a direct attack on
Washington and his command. Washington was furious. Washington immediately
countered the invitation to a meeting, declaring
that he and he alone had the power to call a
meeting of the officer corps, but then, in an incredible
leadership moment, he did exactly that. He called for a meeting of the officers, and he called for it for March the 15th. If you know anything, one does at least, what happens on the Ides of March to Julius Caesar by his own men? But Washington calls for a meeting of conspirators on that very day. He immediately, then, wrote to Hamilton and said you must work,
and you must work quickly to fix this in Congress to
redress the officers’ complaints and he forewarned Hamilton that a failure to take proper action now would plunge the country into a gulf of civil horror from
which may be no receding. A gulf of civil horror from which there may be no receding. Now the drama unfolds on March the 15th as if it were produced for the stage and I submit to you that it
was produced for the stage. The stage on which free
governments are enacted. On Washington’s orders,
500 officers file in to a building named the Temple of Virtue, In what will become rich irony or maybe very bold leadership stroke, Horatio Gates, believed to be
one of the lead conspirators was put in charge of the meeting. It remains unclear to
everyone except his top aides whether Washington is going
to attend the meeting. Some hope that the general,
by putting Gates in charge and calling the meeting has finally also come to the end of his rope, that he is tired of the
inaction of our politicians and he is prepared to take the government. A new government, a new monarchy, perhaps, is on the verge of being born. And they were there to be part of it. Others seemed ready to move whether or not Washington is with them. At precisely noon, precisely
noon, the doors opened. Washington entered. Everyone stood. He walked slowly, deliberately,
silently to the podium. His very presence, his
dignity and strength served to strike the
souls of his officers, because this is no, it’s difficult for us to understand this now, but this is no mere fellow mortal. This is His Excellency, this
is the commander-in-chief. This is the man nicknamed
by a Native American enemy, as the most favorite of heaven. This is the father of this country. First thing Washington did was apologize. He apologized to them
for showing up in person because that’s not what he does. That’s not his mode of operation, to show up to a meeting like this. But he says the gravity is
such that he had to show up. And then he began his
prepared remarks like this, “Gentlemen, by an anonymous summons, “an attempt has been made
to convene you together. “How unmilitary, how inconsistent “with the rules of propriety. “How subversive of all
order and discipline. “Let the good sense of this army decide.” And he goes on, and I’ll skip the rest of the speech for our time tonight. But then he ends with these stirring though a little clunky for
us today, particular words. Telling them that if they,
at this crucial moment, if they resist the temptation to act, if they resist the
temptation to take up arms and force their will upon Congress, if they stand by their duty,
their honor and their country rather than their own pocketbooks, he says this, if they do that, he says, “You will give one more
distinguished proof “of unexampled patriotism
and patient virtue “rising superior to the pressures “of the most complicated of sufferings “and you will by the
dignity of your conduct “afford occasion of posterity
to say when speaking “of the glorious example you
have exhibited to mankind, “had this day been wanting. “The world has never seen
the last stage of perfection “to which human nature
is capable of attaining.” I’m gonna read that again,
because I’mma hope it shames you because it shames me. Because he’s promising these men that you will remember them. You were their posterity. Almost no one in America
knows this story today. It took me until, and I’ve
been studying Washington, it took me to figure this out, about maybe 10 years ago or so, so I was probably 20 or
something I don’t know. (audience laughing) But listen to that again, he says, “Posterity will say this of
you,” if you’re those soldiers, he’ll say, “Posterity
will say this of you, “that if this day had been wanting, “the world had never seen
the last stage of perfection “to which human nature
is capable of attaining.” We don’t remember it at all. That’s that important in that moment. In the case he was, had
not yet won the day, he also had a letter with him, a letter from a sympathetic
member of Congress that promised the
Congress would obey their, would follow in their duties
to take care of the army, and thanked them for the support. And he reached into his pocket
and he pulled the letter out and he opened it, and he started to read, and he stumbled over the writing, and he struggled, and he paused. The tension in the room built and then he reached into his waistcoat and he pulled out a pair of spectacles, spectacles, glasses, that
were recently sent to him by a man named David Rittenhouse who was a Philadelphia scientist. No one, I guarantee you have never seen Washington with glasses. No one had seen him ever
in public wear glasses, but if that stern
dressing-down of his officers didn’t have the effect that was intended, what happened next proved
devastating to the conspirators. For Washington stood before his officers and he said, “Gentlemen,
you must forgive me “for I have grown not
only gray but nearly blind “in the service of my country.” Washington, the most favored of heaven, the most flawless of men bared
a flaw to save the republic. Eyes watered, tears dripped
down heroes’ cheeks. The conspiracy was at an end, as his men were properly shamed
before their moral superior. The plot neutralized,
Washington silently walked out of the Temple of Virtue. His most loyal aides remained behind and immediately stepped
up to make a motion, several motions, to pass
loyalty statements to Congress. There was no dissent, not even
a grumble, in what was called the general speechlessness
of the assembly. The motion to express trust in Congress and the commander-in-chief, as well as to denounce the conspirators
passed unanimously. The crisis was over. Civilian control of the
military had been preserved. The army would bide its
time until peace was made and colonial independence accepted by the British Crown. The nation republic was not
strangled in the cradle. We took a major step into what we now know as our very vital tradition of civilian control of the military. And in this ending of the war,
Washington changed the world. Refusing power, refusing the crown, teaching military deference
to civilian authority no matter its level of competence, voluntarily resigning his position and retiring from public life. These acts would seem
so basic to us today, shook the world and changed history. We refer to Washington, or some of us do, his contemporaries did,
as our Cincinnatus. His officers formed the
Society of the Cincinnati, a major US city is named Cincinnati. Not far from Newburgh, New York, there is a Cincinnatus, New
York in Cortland County. There are Cincinnatus towns
across the nation, why? Because George Washington did in our world what almost no one has
done in human history, except for the great
Roman general Cincinnatus, and that 2,000 years
before Washington was born. He won a war, he liberated a nation and then instead of taking power, he ended the war by going home to his farm and in so doing he changed it all. Washington’s example taught the men of the Philadelphia Convention
that there was hope. There was at least one
man who could be entrusted with power and who might
then set the precedents for a republican government
and a republican executive unlike the world had ever seen before. They created the American presidency, with its relatively vague language, and entrusted him to bring it to life, and to create the precedents
that would last the ages. He set in motion the
precedent that the military takes orders from a civilian president no matter whether they agree
with their decisions or not. He set in motion the cultural expectations that fill in the blanks
of the Constitution. From his own retirement
from the presidency after two terms, down
to the general officers of our own time making a sharp salute and accepting the military directives of presidents with which they disagree. These have worked
tolerably well to give us a republican political system, resting on the eternal tension
between order and liberty. So as you you think about
your own careers, young folks, your own projects, older folks, the leadership challenges
that lie ahead of all of us, I hope you remember the
lessons of proper farewells, and will end each phase of your life in a way that is worthy of
the place you have been, worthy of your followers, and which leaves your place better than you found it. As you continue to think about the American constitutional order of ours, I hope you’ll remember
the father of it all, the man who was the revolution,
who secured the peace, who presided over the
Constitutional Convention, who accepted the presidency, who first enacted the Constitution and who voluntarily left office again, setting us numerous precedents. We have remembered and
should be grateful for down to the current hour. Thank you for your patience. (audience applauding) – Let me remind you,
those of you who have been to Constitution Day before,
know we have a tradition of robust questions,
and what I’d like to do to maximize the time, is
if you have a question and you can preface it with a statement, not a speech, but a statement. If you have a question, if
you would just walk around to the back and line up at the mic, and Professor, I’ll turn it
back over to Professor Gregg. So and just if you have
a question, do line up. – Don’t sit down there.
– It will save time. – Let me first, before
you ask the question, let me say, thank you for that, I will accept that standing
ovation for Washington, not for myself.
(audience laughing) Go ahead, young man. I’ve got full power. – Okay, so when Washington’s
senior officers met, and if they had to control
Congress, then martial law, right, military controls the government would have been put into effect. What would have happened to Washington? Would he have just gone off and not been the president again? – Yeah, who knows? I mean, we don’t know. Martial law wouldn’t necessarily be, technically it might be martial law, but it wouldn’t be martial
law as we understand it under some kind of emergency
situation, I’m guessing. Washington could have
handled it in numerous ways. Washington could have could have led it and could have been accepted a kingship of some sort or a military
dictatorship or who knows what. That’s why we have to be so very thankful that in Washington’s imagination, people like Caesar were not his idols, they were not his heroes. I can talk more about
that if you’re interested, so we don’t know what might have happened. Or he might have been so
disgusted he went away someplace. He might have been like Caesar, he might have been killed
by some of his troops if he tried to resist. We don’t know what may have happened, but I think what we do
know would have happened is whatever it was would
have been, I think, a terrible precedent to be set. If you wanna know the difference, all you have to do is
look around the world, and I have a list, I’ve
given a speech a few, maybe two years ago, and
I don’t remember them now, but I think I ticked off a dozen countries that have had military
coups in the last decade. Well, that could have
been us, but it’s not us because the precedent has
been so set so strongly. But we need to keep that alive, we need to remember this, and I think we’re not
doing a good job of it, the military’s not doing
a good job of it either, and I could talk about that but, thank you for your question. – What was Washington’s
views on Article Five, and specifically the state’s path, I think, to amend the Constitution. – He says in his farewell address that the only way to
amend the Constitution, he says, you cannot amend it by, he says, adhere to the principles
of the Constitution when it, after, if it hasn’t
proved itself with experience, then there’s a mechanism to change the Constitution in Article Five. So he’s totally supportive of it, of that, what he is really worried about is that we will come along over time, and he doesn’t mention,
and we all could fight about the Supreme Court and
the role of Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court has clearly changed, and changing the
interpretation the Constitution and changed its meaning over time. I’m not sure he’s as worried about that. He’s really worried about
Congress coming along and saying, well this doesn’t, our powers really don’t fit us anymore, the president should have that ’cause that’s more convenient, let’s give ’em to the president. That’s the kind of thing
he’s really worried about. So he wants, totally for
amending the Constitution, when it proves itself to be amended. – Thank you.
– My pleasure. – Was there anything that took a young George Washington from
being arrogant to be– – [Gary] Young man, all
right, I wanna give you this. I’ll tell you about it later, what it is. Would you come take it– (mumbling) So your question is–
– That’s great. – [Gary] Your question is why does, what kept Washington from being arrogant, an arrogant snot that he was. Washington, so I made a, I just came from a talk in Pittsburgh where I talked about Washington as a young man. I’m gonna use this, I’m gonna embellish a little bit here from your coin, but I wanna tell you a
little bit of story here. This is a Washington almost nobody knows. I want to tell you though, young people, because I realize, hopefully I reached you with that talk, but I
realize when I was your age, if you’d have said George Washington, I would have rolled my eyes and said are you kidding me, the guy with the powdered wig? The guy that’s on Mount Rushmore? The guy that tries to sell me mattresses on President’s Day?
(audience laughing) And that’s partly because, it’s partly Washington’s fault, because Washington, and when I called him the most flawless of men, it’s because he would not
show anyone any flaws ever, because he was prideful all
the way through his life, in that way, he was so dignified. He was so strong, he
wanted to be above it all, and he knew it was important to the American people that
he be that in his older age. But he was, when he was young, so I want you to think
about him as a young man, let’s say 21 year old, relatively young, a little bit older than you, but not not terribly, how old are you? 13, yeah, he’s a lot older than you. But I imagine at 21, having
never been in the military, having never been in what’s
now western Pennsylvania where the greatest football
team of all time plays, and the the governor of, I
know this is a long answer, I’m sorry, but it’s important
to young people to see this. And the governor of Virginia said, We need a kid, we need a kid. We need somebody, a serious outdoorsman, a military officer, to
go to the Ohio country, to go to the wilderness, to
go all the way to near Canada, and to tell the French,
This is our land, get lost. A 21 year old kid named George Washington had the arrogance to walk in there and say, “That’s my job
for me, I’m gonna do it.” The governor called him a mere raw laddie. There’s a raw laddie, a kid,
that he was giving the job to. On that trip, Washington went out, had to make it through,
took him three months to make it through the wilderness,
to get to Fort Le Boeuf, which is near Erie, Pennsylvania today. Along the way, I’m gonna say
this, just a trigger alert, you might wanna close your
ears if you’re squeamish. He did, ran into things like a family, they would have been
massacred by Native Americans, that were being eaten by their own pigs. He had made his way from native
village to native village, not speaking any of the languages, but he got a nickname. Think about him like this,
nickname, Conotocaurious. Conotocaurious, which
means devourer of villages. Now, how cool that, is
that a good nickname? Tell people to call you that, Conotocaurious, devourer of villages. Pretty cool nickname for an arrogant kid. So think about him in buckskin, think about him, which he had, think about him engaging
with Native Americans, think about them calling him devourer of villages as a 21 year old, think of him running into
things like that family, think of him falling into an icy river, in the Allegheny River, an icy river, having to make his way up
onto a bank of a island to spend the night and only making it across the next morning because it was so cold
that the river froze solid and he walked across. Think of him being shot
at by Native Americans at point-blank range. Think about him at the
Battle of the Monongahela, where Kennywood Park is. Great park, rollercoaster
capital of the world, used to say in the day, I don’t know, it’s a little overblown, but right. Pittsburgh, it’s outside
of Pittsburgh today, so go there, go to Kennywood Park, ride the roller coasters, have fun and imagine this, imagine
that massacre happened. Imagine an ambush of
the British and English, British and Virginia forces. I’m gonna come to your answer, believe me. (audience laughing) And Washington being a volunteer, his men getting shot up in a cross fire, his volunteers from Virginia. Imagine the Native American allies of the French assassinating one by one, snipers every officer in the
British forces, which they did. Everyone of ’em was dead or wounded, and yet Washington had volunteered, jumped on a horse, rode into
the middle of that melee. Had two horses shot out from under him, ended up with four bullet
holes in his clothes, but rallied his troops to get them out, saving hundreds and hundreds of lives, becoming known as the hero of Monongahela, and I told you earlier, he was
the most favorite of heaven? That is a name given to
him by an Indian sniper that said he took direct aim
at Washington numerous times and it seemed it was
like having the bullets just pulled away from him. So he gets this kind of reputation. Now that doesn’t help you as to how he’s not an arrogant SOB
by the time he gets older, but he also presides over the massacre, he starts the French and Indian War, which almost nobody knows that, which just happens,
just a few months later. He surrenders in a humiliating defeat at Fort Necessity, he presides over Ensign Jumonville, a French officer with whom which we weren’t at war, having his head split open with an ax and his brains pulled
out right next to him. He gets over all that,
however, because of this. This is what I want you to remember, young people, remember this. This is a quote from Cicero, but it was a quote that
drove George Washington. Cicero says, “Make yourself the man “you want others to think you are.” Change that to person,
but let’s think about it. Make yourself the person you
want others to think you are. Washington was not in it to be authentic, or to be himself, ’cause he would’ve been an arrogant SOB all his life. He was into it to become the person he wanted others to think he was, and in so doing that, discipline and becoming that person,
he became it over time. He saw the people, he saw
the heroes he wanted to be, and he made himself that. So I think, that’s what I love about talking about Washington at that age, is because he was, he was all kinda flaws, all kinda full of himself, but he decided, I am
not gonna be that way. Destiny has not set me up
that I have to live with that. I could make make myself what
I want to be, and he did. So, I’m sorry that was long, but you gave me a great
reason to tell a story. Cool story, and who doesn’t like a story about your brains being
pulled out by a hatchet or whatever.
(audience laughing) So thank you, I’ll tell you
about that coin in a minute. – I was just gonna ask, what happened to the officers that conspired,
that led to the meeting. – Not a thing, Washington,
magnanimous hero. Not even sure, Horiatio Gates is believed to be a lead conspirator,
it’s not absolutely proven that he was, we don’t know. When it was over, Washington,
it just went away. He just ignored it. He didn’t actually officially
pardon or whatever. Because, what Washington did, he did this numerous times in life, like after the Whiskey Rebellion, is he pardoned the people that, my ancestors from western Pennsylvania. I see you have a Chattanooga
whiskey or something here, whatever that is,
(audience laughing) In the Whiskey Rebellion,
Washington one of the ways he put it down was, he
pardoned all, everyone, except the couple lead conspirators, dealt with them very
efficiently, very quickly but magnanimously and then let them go. And then the answer to that was they were not permanently alienated from the American community. That’s I guess what he wanted. – [Student] Did they
still serve officer roles after that point in the military? – Yeah, they did, yeah. In fact, at least one or
two were actually promoted, and that became a bit of controversy, because it’s like, how are
your promoting these people? They tried to overturn the government. – What actions did Washington take to make sure that the presidency didn’t become another monarchy? – Well, great question. Number one, and maybe most importantly, is he resigned and went home. And he wanted to do it
after his first term, so that’s something,
I’m all into Washington, you can tell, but what
I studied is actually the two-term presidency precedent. He actually didn’t wanna set that. I actually, Thomas Jefferson’s
the one who really set it, but because Washington
was just old and tired and he was done, and he wanted to go home, as I told you, after the first term, but they kept him around. They kept him around,
that’s not how it was. They pressured him into staying and he stayed for another term. So when he left the second time, that really helped solidify the idea that we’re not a monarchy, we’re
not hereditary, we move on. The other thing that’s important to him, is actually, he had no
kids, so he could be, he was non-threatening
in that way, a monarchy? ‘Cause he had no kids to pass it on to. So that’s actually one
of the miracles of life, is people may have been more suspicious of him if he would have. Beyond that, you can lay out, this is why I think Washington is, we can fight, I know
there’ll be Lincoln people, they’re in a movie right now, I’m sorry, but Washington, I think, is
the greatest president easily for this reason. He had to do it all for
the very first time. You know, so everything that he did was done for the very first
time, to set the precedent. So I think it’s not a simple answer, I think it’s a complex answer
in all of those things, but if you had to point to one I’d say, leaving after two terms, thanks. – So I’ve kinda got a two part question. First of all, you noted that Washington urged for patriotism in
his farewell address, so I was kinda wondering,
how might Washington discern between patriotism and the dangers of nationalism in modern era, and the second part is, what might you say about the state of
nationalism in America today? – Wow. I’m not sure I have a good answer to that. I think that’s, that answer
requires some thinking, and I’m not used to thinking. (audience laughing) Nationalism and patriotism. You know, nationalism, I think, is not even, it would be
an alien concept, I think. (microphone squeaks) Oh sorry, so that would be the first thing I’d say is I’m not sure how
much he would make of it. I don’t know, I’m gonna
have to think about it. That’s a great question, it’s probably above my head right now, at 9:00 p.m. at night to think through, but maybe by the end I’ll
have an answer for you. – Washington would have won the first war, how would that affected the republic? – [Gary] Say that again, please? – If Washington won the first war, then how would that have
affected the republic? – If he won the first war? What war would it be, the
French and Indian War? During the French and Indian War, so if you go back and look at Washington, this is something that I think, that I have marveled at. If I told you George Washington started the French and Indian War, how many of you would’ve
said you understood that? One, two people, three people, maybe. ‘Cause I’m not sure I
understood that at all until not very long ago, actually. When he ambushes the
French at Jumonville Glen. So the British, who he was allied with, do win the war at the end. I think he waited, but he pulled out so who knows, because he’s out of the war for most of that, after he’s humiliated, becomes a volunteer on
two different attempts to take back what we now call Pittsburgh, where the greatest football
team of all time plays, (audience laughing)
but that’s it. So we don’t, you know, who knows? He could’ve been killed, he could’ve, mistakes even more, ruined his reputation, all kinds of things could have happened. I think one of the things that I think is interesting, and I’m not a historian,
I’m a political scientist, so historians in the room,
don’t call me on this, but if you look at Washington starting the French and Indian War, and then you skip forward to things like the Stamp Act and tea tax, and all that kind of stuff, you’d could almost look where
Washington started this war, ends up, causes of the
American Revolution begin and then he presides over it. That’s pretty astounding, pretty astounding historical
trend connections, thanks. – So you reference the
power of judicial review and precedent that
altered the Constitution, and you also talked about how Congress has consistently yielded
over power to the presidency. So my question is, how can we have faith in modern political order,
if its very foundation is constantly subject to change? – Well, I think that’s
a, I think Washington would understand your question, would understand your question very much. That doesn’t mean he would
necessarily be right on it. I mean, there is a, obviously, two, let’s say two stereotypical camps. One is the Constitution says what it says, original intent, if you don’t change it through Article Five, it doesn’t change. The other side is, come on, let’s be reasonable, let’s adapt. We didn’t have cell phones in 1787, that sort of thing, so we
have to adapt along the way. Washington, I think, certainly
would be in this camp, at least in his farewell. He might not be today, but he
would have been at the time. I don’t know whether
that’s the right answer at the end of the day,
but on the other hand, I can tell from your question, I get in your question
a sense that if you, if things fluctuated and
fluctuate year to year, time to time and that it’s
hard to have confidence in a document if it just means whatever the court says it means or
whatever the current Congress says it means or whatever. I actually, am so he didn’t know this, well, he writes this before the concept of judiciary review, but
at least they did get this before judicial review, and maybe you can saw it in
the Federalist number 78, but it’s not enacted yet, so he doesn’t understand that. But I think he’s really,
if we go back to it, what he’s really trying to say, I think, in his farewell address, is have a loyalty to the principles of the Constitution, follow it. When it fails, when something goes wrong, then follow the amendment
process and change it and then give that change some time to prove itself or not, and if it doesn’t, then change it again. But it’s very small C
conservative in that way. It’s slow, it’s developmental, but I think that’s what
he would say about it. – Thank you.
– You’re welcome. – When George Washington’s
cabinet kept him around the second term how did
he, how did Washington not let his being tired and stuff, affect performance of, like, second term? How did he not just give
up and do things like, ugh, I have to do this again. (Gary laughs) – Well, he very well may have
on many days, I don’t know. But I think the key to
understanding Washington in this way is, it’s not completely outdated, but it’s outdated from the way that they would have understood it. And that is, if you look at both of the, well you can look at the farewell address, and if you look at almost
anything he writes, he is driven by a sense of duty. So even if he felt like that, this was a man who at every turn, when he felt it was his
duty to act, he acted. So, for instance, I really don’t, again, we could talk about this in
our seminar today that we did. You can fight about this,
we have for 200 years, whether he really wanted
to be president or not. I don’t think he did want to be president, and here’s the reason why. I think there was nothing more important, except for his country, there’s nothing, and its success long term,
there’s nothing more important to Washington than his reputation. And as I said to you, coming
out of the revolution, he had the reputation of being the greatest man in the world. And if you don’t go that far, well, you go farther than that, being maybe one of the
greatest men in 2,000 years. You know, if he’s America’s Cincinnatus, that means he had the virtue
more than any other general in 2,000 years, that’s heavy
stuff, that’s big stuff. And that’s what he had been
aiming for his entire life, personally, is having a reputation. And that’s not celebrity,
which is really different here. He didn’t want to be a celebrity. He wanted a reputation of honor for greatness, for doing
good things and he had it. So when he goes to the
presidency the first time, James, he writes to
James Madison and he says something the effect of, I feel like the prisoner going to the gallows. And he was going, he said that because he didn’t mean
that he was gonna have his, he was gonna be hung himself physically, but he thought his
reputation would be hung. And every time you try
something new like that you risk, as I said, farewell. He gave his farewell, he hit at the top and then they said, yeah,
but you’re not done. It’s like I tried to get out and it kept sucking me back in. And then he serves the
Constitutional Convention, risks it all, serves as the
president, risked it all. Second term, but I think
it’s duty that does that, that keeps him going through it. It’s also not, it’s
not that heavy of a job compared to what we think
of presidents today. There’s very limited federal government, unless you have something like the Whiskey Rebellion going on. It’s not that heavy, and you’ve got people like Hamilton and Jefferson
and Madison working with you. Yeah, those are pretty big. That’s pretty big stuff.
– Thank you. – But I think that’s right, duty. – Thank you very much
for your time here today, I’ve deeply enjoyed everything
you’ve shared so far. – Thank you.
– I’m hoping you can give me some
insight to my question. – Okay.
– How do you think Washington would rally the current American citizenry to fight the corruption
in our local system, what tactics do you think he would use to rally the American citizens? – Yeah, good question. I’m not sure he thought of in
terms of tactics like that. He would be very concerned
by things you said. There’s no, I don’t care what side you’re politically on, you
can’t read the farewell address and not know he would be very disturbed by all of America right now. Almost all of America,
me probably excepted. (audience laughing) Because, if you look,
he’s not a great orator, he’s not, so he wouldn’t
go on TV to give speeches, that would not be his thing. He wouldn’t go on commercials. I mean that’s just unbelievable to him. I think he couldn’t be
part of a political party and try to rally a political party because he’s warning against that. That’s what’s gonna destroy
America is political parties, so he can’t be any part of that. So you’re not thinking
of your typical tactics, what he was, was he had
built a massive reputation that was beyond repute, and I think that, and that would be used today
because people would say, we have, wow, okay, Washington said this? We better pay attention, we better follow, or at least pay attention. I think for our day, however, look, we all know this,
we destroy everyone. And if we don’t destroy them,
they destroy themselves. But we look for that,
we look for the crap, we look for that salacious
story, the press does. There’s nobody above, there’s
nobody like this anymore. Maybe somebody that’s above
reproach in public life. So we live in an age we would destroy a George Washington now, on something, we will find something and destroy him, I think probably. Actually, Jefferson tried to do this in the second term for political reasons. He started rumors that Washington had become senile, that he’d
become a duke of Hamilton. It was for political parties, because if you tear down Washington, then you tear down his side
of the aisle, which is, you try to stay above it,
in the space that he was on. Hamilton, John Adams’ side, and all that. So anyway, I’m not sure he
would have any good insight. I think his insight would be on principles and giving us guidance in that way. His tactics, he wouldn’t be able to help us in this day and age. I think those will be us,
we have to figure out. – Thank you.
– Great question, thank you. – What do you think was the source of Washington’s values that
kept him from giving in to the last temptation? Do you think it was a
Christian upbringing, or the philosophy of the age,
or something similar to that? – His religion is, and by the way, I’m exempting you from
the arrogant redheads that I talked about before. (audience laughing) Washington’s religion is
very difficult to figure out. So I’m gonna steer a little clear of it. He was raised in a Christian culture, you can’t get away from that, he writes about providence,
he writes about heaven all over the place, so he does all that. On the other hand, he did things like he never actually took communion. He would, instead of kneeling, even stand often in church
services, just different. So I don’t know about that. What I do know, is I
think the most fundamental the most fundamental influence in his life was actually a play, and it was
a play called Cato, C-A-T-O. Cato: A Tragedy, it
was by a British author named Joseph Addison. Yes, so if some of you
are writing this down, write it down people, find it, you can find it, Google
it, it’s free online. And Cato: A Tragedy, and
it’s somewhat a love story, so you guys can, guy in the
front with the knee brace, I think is probably
interested in love stories kinda thing, so you can read it for that. (audience laughing) So all right, but it’s also, so Cato,
so here’s the quick story about Cato, Cato, I think is his exemplar. It’s the man he wants to
be at the end of the day. Cato is the last Roman senator
fighting Julius Caesar, and it’s the end of the American, it’s the end of the Roman Republic, he is, the forces of
the republic have fled through Greece, Pharsalus the battle, and ends up in North Africa. It’s very interesting
on race, this play too. Because the hero, one of the heroes, is actually a black African. And this play is written in 1713. It was Washington’s favorite. Washington had it enacted at Valley Forge, Washington quoted it throughout his life, from the time he was 26 to his death bed. It was very influential. What Cato does, is Cato never bended. Cato is duty bound, Cato is strong, Cato is, he is willing
to fight for the future of the republic, even all the way down to the last man in Africa. And so I think Cato is his inspiration is he wanted to be our Cato. We call him our Cincinnatus, for rightful reasons, I
would call him our Cato. As he tried to emulate Cato. And he writes about it
all through his life. Here’s another great quote, from the play Washington
quoted it throughout, all over the place, one
of those chilling moments when you’re doing historical research is in the play what
I’m about to say to you which is a good quote to live by, is said to a traitor, and
when I ran across the letter, George Washington writing that quote to Benedict Arnold before
he became a traitor. It’s like, wow are you kidding me? Anyway, the quote is this, ‘Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more, we’ll deserve it. Think about that. ‘Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more, we’ll deserve it. You can’t guarantee success in your life, you can’t guarantee success
in your high school careers, whatever the case may be, but
you can do more than that, you can deserve success, that is, I think, what drove Washington. You gonna call time or are we gonna take these two quick ones? – [Lucien] Why don’t we do this, one last question, but what
has customarily happened, if you don’t have your question answered, we can, Professor Gregg will
stay around for 15 minutes. – I got nothing to do tonight.
– So last question. – So I’m here, I got no
friends in Chattanooga. I’m sorry, Lucien, I have Lucien. (audience laughing)
And Charlie, I have two friends, and
Michelle, I have three friends. Okay, I do have things to do at night, I’m not hanging’ around. Go ahead. – Okay, so my question
is, how do you think, specifically we can
apply, I guess, his morals and his beliefs, George
Washington’s, that is, to our current political system and our current political beliefs? – Holy cow, man.
– I wouldn’t call it a divide, but beliefs?
– Yeah. – Wow, yeah, how many hours we have? Sit back down, Lucien, I’m
gonna be here for awhile. First off, we have to read them, so we understand what
they are, which we don’t. Let me just give you one,
because it is, I think, so vital to today and that is his warning in the farewell address
against political parties. And it goes on paragraph
after paragraph, his warning. So his warning is there’s
the spirit of party that causes division in the country. It’s gonna separate us,
it’s gonna split us apart. It’s the party politics that
will allow foreign influence. As foreigners can come in and give money to political campaign and whatever the case may be in the parties. We can stop, we can help on this front. And frankly, I think political parties, I’ve become more and more
convinced the political parties have helped change almost
everything in America and for the worse. Right now, for sure, as I’m on my soapbox. We can do things by actually, like this. Actually listen to people. Listen to people, don’t just dismiss them because they have an R after their name or because they’re a woman
or because they’re a black or because they’re a white,
or whatever the case may be. Listen to them. I’m sorry, I’m not preaching to you. Should I preach to them? Listen to them. (audience laughing) On Facebook, social media, give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’ve got
different ideas than you. Maybe they’re not evil. Washington would say that, I think. And that’s another principle, and so follow, the two Ps,
and not the other two Ps. The two Ps, patriotism, what’s
the other P I started with? One of those two Ps it must be. – [Lucien] Prudence? – Well, it could be,
prudence is a good one too. Now, I can’t think of what it was. But anyway, one of those
two Ps, whatever they were. Principles, duh. Principles and patriotism,
let those be your guide. Not parties and
partisanship and presidents, whether you love ’em or
hate ’em, I don’t care. But that should be, and I
think that’s the number one thing we can do to help
America today, right now, help us come together, get along, figure out how we’re gonna
get through all our divisions. Listen to one another. – I wanna thank you again for coming and thank you.
(audience applauding)

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