Last week, I had the great opportunity to present the Washington Day address to members of the Maryland House of Delegates. Through the course of the address, I had the opportunity to reflect upon Washington’s “farewell address” to the nation, and specifically the ways in which the first President called us to be reminded of our collective spirit of unity and to avoid splintering along factions and party lines.
In the Sixth District, we can all be proud of the many ways in which our residents consistently heed Washington’s call toward our collective spirit. We see this through the Dundalk 4th of July parade and the Heritage Fair, the Essex Day Festival, and the Edge-Stock music event, among many others.
And, given the partisan divide in Washington, D.C.—and to some extent, in Annapolis—I felt that President Washington’s remarks admonishing the rise of parties and groups was especially timely for the address.
On that front, a portion of the remarks I offered to my colleagues in the House of Delegates (the full text of which is accessible on my website, www.johnnyojr.com) is below:
… In particular, Washington reminds us that one of the greatest threats to our unity is a spirit of party. He says that it, “unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.” We know all too well that there are natural inclinations to gravitate towards those with whom we most agree. Or with whom we most look like, or have shared experiences.
Washington warns that party splintering leads to an alternating domination of one group over another—sharpened only by a spirit of revenge. We have all seen this. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that we all have—at one time or another—been guilty of thinking this way.
In many respects, the rise of parties is only natural. In fact, it was growing party factions that ultimately led Washington toward assuming a second term as President—seeking to hold the country together, despite his desire to retire, finally, to Mount Vernon.
However, natural inclinations toward, and the modern-day existence of factions should by no means serve as a convenient excuse for any of our actions. We remain responsible for how we comport ourselves—and we still retain control over what we do, what we say, and how we say it.
We can keep the divisiveness in check. Washington reminds us that “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
We are a wise people. It is our duty to discourage and restrain unbridled party and group politics. It is our duty to put the greater good first.