The Washington Post

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

George Washington's speech gets a Senate reading. (Library of Congress)

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 Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) takes to the floor to read a speech originally made by then-President George Washington in honor of the cherry-tree-chopping first president’s birthday.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.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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