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As Long as We Remember...

February 21, 2012

A Tribute In Their Own Words

Shawn Burns

President’s Day – a national holiday combining the birthdays’ of President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln – was meant as a day to recognize the contributions to our country by two of the giants who served in the highest office in the land.


President Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809, and Washington born on February 22, 1732, are regularly ranked as the third and first greatest United States presidents.


Of course, those ranking can and will continue to be debated. But what is indisputable is the significant mark each man left on our country and on the very institution of democracy around the world.


Imagine if these two men’s paths had crossed and that President Lincoln and President Washington had the opportunity to chat and exchange their thoughts on our growing country.


The following are quotes from each president, pieced together to imagine how a conversation between Lincoln and Washington may have transpired.


George Washington: “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”


Abraham Lincoln: “Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”


George Washington: “If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

George Washington: “It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”


Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”


George Washington: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”


Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”


George Washington: “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. [But] over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”


Abraham Lincoln: “Every man's happiness is his own responsibility.”


“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.”


“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”


“You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.”


“You cannot further brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.”


“You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.”


George Washington: “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.”


Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”


Of course these men never met. But on this President’s Day, their words are a reminder of their strong belief in the young country in which they were intimately involved and invested. Each man had his faults and shortcomings, but each man also personified what was and what can still be for America – a country built on justice, freedom and equality for all.


Now to leave you with a final quote from Abraham Lincoln that reveals his wit: “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”


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