In a final address to the people whom he had served for 45 years, the man most responsible for founding the United States offered wise counsel to the fledgling nation for its future. With regard to those things which he felt vital to continuance in freedom, George Washington set forth his views plainly and then commented:

I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting expression I could wish—that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations.

Yet President Washington nonetheless hoped that his counsel would be “productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good.…”

Scores of nations have appeared on the horizon of history, run their course, and disappeared. Some lived only briefly, glimmering like pale stars against the darkness of the past. Others, comet-like, have shot across recorded time, lighting the known world while they lived and leaving a glow to light the way for some which followed. The many ran their course. A few remained. And down that stream of recorded time, the scattered light was gathered and summed up in one great idealistic burst:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.


Here was a startling and revolutionary new concept—a concept that has echoed and reverberated for the 185 years just past. Since it was proclaimed across the world on that hot July day, it has rocked empires, dethroned ...

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