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Statement About the Anniversary of Washington's Birthday

February 21, 1969

GEORGE WASHINGTON was the most trusted American. More than any other quality of heroism or wisdom, it was that fact of rocklike trustworthiness that made him "first in the hearts of his countrymen."

If his words were not always eloquent, his word was always good; he projected from his own integrity a concern for a national integrity. He was among the first to speak of a "National Character," and described one of its pillars as the ability of the citizens "to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community."

Revolutionary times, all great ages of rapid change, call up a need for that bedrock quality of trust. People will accept new departures if they know the men charting the course are men of fundamental principle. The men who earn the people's trust in times of revolutionary change have the most to do with the successful progress of a nation. With the strength that grew out of that trust, Washington forged a new hope for humanity.

There is some irony in issuing a Washington's Birthday message on the eve of a Presidential trip to Europe. We all remember the warning in his Farewell Address to "steer clear of permanent Alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

Yet we must remember that in that farewell, Washington also said this: "Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest." The United States, with its purposes of peace and freedom, must accept the opportunity today to widen areas of agreement throughout the world.

In that spirit, together with our friends and ultimately with our adversaries, we can, in Washington's words, "raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair."

Richard Nixon, Statement About the Anniversary of Washington's Birthday Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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