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Posted at 09:12 AM ET, 02/27/2012

Jeanne Shaheen to read Washington’s farewell speech, in Senate custom

George Washington's speech gets a Senate reading. (Library of Congress)
Senate tradition alert! The “upper chamber” is just chocka­block with customs, from the bean soup to “Seersucker Thursday” to streaking State of the Union (okay, so we made the last one up).

We’ll get to witness one of the quirks of the august body today when Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) takes to the floor to read a speech originally made by then-President George Washington in honor of the cherry-tree-chopping first president’s birthday.

A member of the Senate reads the speech each year, a tradition that began in 1862. The Senate historian’s office says reading of the speech, Washington’s farewell, was initially intended as a pep rally of sorts “during the darkest days of the Civil War.”

Shaheen, who will get to inscribe her name in a leather-bound book, says she’s a fan of Washington’s. “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of his leadership to our country,” she says in a statement.

The speech contains more than a few lines that might resonate with today’s audiences (on federal borrowing, for example, Washington had this to say: “cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible.”)

The big event starts at 2 p.m., and will be carried live on C-SPAN.

By  |  09:12 AM ET, 02/27/2012

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