The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations
By John Avlon
George Washington’s Farewell Address was a prophetic letter from a “parting friend” to his fellow citizens about the forces he feared could destroy our democracy: hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, and foreign wars.
Once celebrated as civic scripture, more widely reprinted than the Declaration of Independence, the Farewell Address is now almost forgotten. Its message remains starkly relevant. In Washington’s Farewell, John Avlon offers a stunning portrait of our first president and his battle to save America from self-destruction.
At the end of his second term, Washington surprised Americans by publishing his Farewell message in a newspaper. The President called for unity among “citizens by birth or choice,” advocated moderation, defended religious pluralism, proposed a foreign policy of independence (not isolation), and proposed that education is essential to democracy. He established the precedent for the peaceful transfer of power.
Washington’s urgent message was adopted by Jefferson after years of opposition and quoted by Lincoln in defense of the Union. Woodrow Wilson invoked it for nation-building; Eisenhower for Cold War; Reagan for religion. Now the Farewell Address may inspire a new generation to re-center our politics and reunite our nation through the lessons rooted in Washington’s experience.
As John Avlon describes the perilous state of the new nation that Washington was preparing to leave as its leader, with enduring wisdom, he reveals him to be the indispensable Founding Father.
“A thoughtful consideration of Washington’s wisdom that couldn’t be timelier.”
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“It’s Hard to tell which is more nearly perfect – John Avlon’s argument or his timing. In the wake of a dispiriting campaign, Avlon finds in Washington’s Farewell Address a stunningly topical antidote to excessive partisanship and greedy self-interest. His book is a stake through the heart of political extremism.”
–Richard Norton Smith
author of On His Own Terms: A life of Nelson Rockefeller
“This book makes a powerful case that the first president’s last public message deserves again to hold iconic status in the pantheon of our greatest founding documents.”
author of Lincoln and the Power of the Press, winner of the Lincoln Prize
“A brilliant look into one of the seminal documents in American history. A fantastic contribution to our national literature.”
author of Rightful Heritage:Franklin S. Roosevelt and the Land of Lincoln
“Washington’s Farewell sweeps us into a timeless and humanizing story.”
Chief Librarian and Archivist,
Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of Geroge Washington
“In this lucidly rendered and insightful portrait of George Washington, John Avlon deconstructs the great man’s famous Farewell Address, one of the most influential documents of our political heritage, and employs the component parts as entry points into an illuminating exploration of the first president’s character and legacy. Thus does Avlon give us the real-life Washington and a compelling narrative of his time.”
–Robert W. Merry
author of Where They Stand and A Country of Vast Designs:President James K. Polk