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tv   Stephen Browne The First Inauguration  CSPAN  August 17, 2021 11:38pm-12:40am EDT

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your life. your five to six minute video will explore federal policies and programs that affect you and your community. student cam competition has $100,000 in total cash prizes and a shot at grand prize of 5,000. entries will begin to be received wednesday. for competition rules and more information on how to get started, visit the website at student good evening everyone. i am the executive director of the national library for the study of george washington and mount vernon. welcome to our evening book talk for the month of april 2021. thrilled to have you here and excited about our conversation on the first inauguration george washington and the invention of the republic with stephen brown. note, coming up in may will
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be our third and final michelle smith lecture. we have had wonderful conversations with lynn cheney, thomas thus far several tickets are available for the final conversation. remember the tickets iff you select the ticket i'm thinking of will include an autographed copy of the book. richard bernstein noted author and great scholar in the founding era has a new book called the education of john adams and i'm excited to talk with him about it. please join for the third and final segment of the 2021 lecture series. we will introduce a little bit about the speaker tonight and of will learn more as we join in on the conversation. the professor of communication at the arts and sciences at ken state he's a critic in fact the most recent book before the book we will be talking about tonight was the eyes of war, george
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washington and the crisis. he's written many books but we are mostly excited about this one as we near the anniversary of the first inaugural address ever given by the first president of the united states. we are going to talk with him about the first inauguration george washington and the invention of the republic. he's a noted scholar, award-winning scholar and marvelous teacher also by the communication association. please join mels in welcoming stephen howard brown. >> it is great to be here for anyone interested in washington this is the gold standard so i feel grateful to you and the staff, the library. thank you. >> on behalf of the association associationwe welcome you here . thank you for noting they support this work and everything we do w at mount vernon and i'm
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thrilled to have the conversation with you. i remind everybody please be submitting your questions i want to give you an opportunity to ask questions of the author tonight and learn about the first inaugural addressut but ao about the first inauguration more broadly and let me start there. tell me about the election of the president. it wasn't like any other. how did george washington become elected? >> one way is to ask how would ite be possible for him not to e elected. he was in some ways a pure composite of those kind of
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values not only that people embraced but needed to embrace at that moment and people knew it from vermont to georgia it was very clear of course that this was precisely the person that not only embodied the values right here right now on the precipice when things were very unclear even perhaps especially in 89. it's interesting to note the day after the inaugural address [inaudible] it iss an uncertain and scary world out there. in mount vernon maybe you can tell us a little bit about the environment in which washington is waiting for the news that he
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had been elected president. i think he knew he was going to be. >> sure there is something of a ritualistic character given what you just said that people knew it and here it comes and indeed the secretary of congresst is sent on his way so all of that is clear and thompson shows up on the 16th and washington is ready. something of a two step dance follows where thompson reads him sort of the official statement from congress in terms of congratulations and washington then turns around and reads a
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statement back. at the same time, washington i will put it this way in these beautiful observations he knew how to take his lead and it reminds us of the sort of stagecraft that washington was so good at and also very good at making an entrance. not to trivialize but quite the
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opposite i think washington follows [inaudible] eating cheese and nuts and wine over the campfire he had a developed sense of the theater politics and under the circumstances he knew he needed to do this right. so when thompson knocks on the door, that is act i, scene one, let's go. >> is there a fear on washington's part of seeming presumptuous? what are his concerns? >> that's a very suggestive question and as evidence for what i am about to say, i certainly encourage everyone who's listening or watching who
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has access to the washington papers in the collection of course which is one of the most amazing works of scholarship. what we have is a really nice paper trail to answer the question as the impending news comes. it's sprinkled with these kinds of things. famously he writes to general knox before hand very quickly and says i feel not unlike those of a culprit going to the place of hisis own execution. so there's that kind of talk and diminishing of expectations and that i am not worthy and that kind of o thing but i don't thik
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it's to say that's part of the stagecraft. it's important for a chief executive of a republican government to play the act down, play the power down, to play up the longing appeal of a whole, mount vernon. so part of that choreography is power he was so good at. he will journey so he's leaving from mount vernon to go to what turned out to be a short-lived capital.
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your book has some great detail on the travel and more importantly what happens along the way. set the stage for us [inaudible] thank you and i will remind myself to restrain myself. this is what compelled me into the project was frankly everybody loves a road trip so how does this work will he's got thompson and humphrey. off they go but they don't get
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far for the listeners and viewers who are familiar with alexandria i think it's 12 miles or something like that, give or take so it is the first of many occasions in which washington is on his way. i promise not to do this every step but if you don't mind, i would like to convey something of what goes down in alexandria at the tavern as a sort of representative of what's to transpire for the next week or so. of course it isn't just any step along the way as we all know. it's close to his heart so this is just a paragraph if you don't
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mind. they have a big meal for him and there are speeches by locals as you might guess they are quite good, and there's washington. here's how he concludes his comments. all that remains is for me to commit myself m and you to the protection of that magnificent that happily broughtas us togetr after a long and a distressing separation. perhaps the same providence will again indulge us with the same heartfelt. but words my fellow citizens the sensations mustbl be left to moe silence all from an aching
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heart. farewell. i wish i could tell on what occasions he stood up and delivered it's unclear to me whether sometimes he is delivering these in written form and that kind of thing but either way that is an exquisite sentiment. it's quite a journey but it's not all that long. >> as your exhibits have these the way there's
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first alexandria and then some stops along the way and w he wil hit baltimore and then of course there's also the big celebrations and rituals of power into delaware and wilmington and philly and that's crazy as far as that goes. a look at the commentary from the day and some scholarly coveragey of that and sometimes estimates are around 10,000 people turning out. the most give or take it had been 30,000 which would be the entire city turned out. it seems le a lot. so there we have several of
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these what would you call them, sort of the architecture of celebration where you have the arch and the bridge and the music. so this is a depiction of washington passing into philadelphia for those of you familiar with this area. that is theater in the best sense. we can talkal about that later t what is going on seems to me interpretive on my part, sure
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but it's not altogether clear because nothing is, what in fact all of this should look like. fast forward for instance 12 years or so to jefferson's first inaugural and he's living in a boardinghouse off the capital. he has a cup of tea and ties his hair back in a ponytail and that's that but in april of 89 it is not clear what the power ought to look like. should it be like a royal procession and just overt the top? you can't really do that and on the other hand you don't want to downplay it too much along with
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a very competitive world so you don't want to downplay yourself so this seems to me to be between the european access and -- they stay in philadelphia for a stretch. everybody wants a piece of the action so you have trustees at the university of pennsylvania and the society of cincinnati and various parties want in on the deal so we get a rehearsal of what we saw but still the
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same sort of offering up of language reflecting a republican city, philadelphia after all you've got to play this right. this is philadelphia and afterwards the second part of the dance washington will deliver a statement of his own so philadelphia is big. it's a big party if you've ever been to philadelphia but he's gettinget a little restless. of course they can't just let it be like that. they've got to send everybody off piled around him. after a few miles a he says you
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guys just go home and take care of the house. we've got it so off he goes into new jersey and what's coming up at trenton. perhaps the most well-known circulated print of washington's entry. you will notice it's primarily almost entirely women and girls. these are the women of trenton and their daughters who've been ready for this moment for weeks. they've been getting together.
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they have outfits and songs. they are rehearsing songs and flour and garland and so on. there's alsoo the equivalent the sort of placards. his excellency saved the women and daughters of trenton and now are returning the favor so it crosses that little bridge in trenton but it's a big bridge in the national imagination. i don't know if national is the right word just yet but that's a big bridge because a lot depends on it and b in any case washingn raises his hat and crosses the ridge. he delivers a few words to the
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mothers and daughters of trenton and on the way needless to say there's music and fire crackers. now he's on his way up to what was then called elizabethtown and eventually onto the water where of course now new york city particularly is really wanting a piece of that action because for obvious reasons. so they've got votes of every kind out to escort him along. of course he goes out onto the barge and now with some of the contemporary writers not that i believe a wordri of it but the dolphins jumping, there's
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fireworks and boats with people singing choruses and so on where they ushered him into the upper harbor. now we are heading towards the battery and eventually into new york city itself and here you should see something like that. now, the image i think is entitled washington's entry into new york, but was that him coming back from newburgh on his way to mount vernon or -- it's hard to tell but i wanted to have it featured because it suggests something of what i would call the sort of urban culture that i don't know if it's street culture necessarily but there they are. new york city would have been
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well the 1790 census as this first one puts the population of new york city right around 30,000. so it's just about ready to move past or it has moved past philadelphia. hard to tell of course because new york like philadelphia is an important city and the numbers get pretty flexible, but this much is clearly the case if you get into the census records kind of the texture of city life into which washington is now arriving and asserting himself so the city would have been right around 30,000. brooklyn of course in that manhattan area right around 30,000. about 15% of that would have been a combination of enslaving
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but there would also be as you know being new york and ofraordinary diversity languagess ranging from of coure because of the dutch and indigenous peoples. the culture going on which is always a rich and crazy kind of going on all the way to the high-end but that's the kind of culture and then it's party time for that day into the next. they put him on a house in cherry street on the manhattan side by the brooklyn bridge to put you in that area kind of the upper east side. >> let me ask a preliminary question you mentioned a couplea couple of times that the
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washington [inaudible] what do we know about washington as an orator something that you studied even before this book before the inaugural address. was edmund burke and then angelina and then jefferson and so on. okay so there's that kind of orator or oratory of the sort of
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full daniel webster. okay, clearly washington is not and would never pretend to be. now at the same time and i will try not to go on about this, but it occurred to me that for all of the mythology of washington as a strong silent type and purely a man of action and that sort of thing, there is some of that, fair enough, but all you have to do is go to a library and look at the washington papers and correspondences and so on. it is incredible. thousands. his life awash in language, so he was highly attuned. now did he compose all of his addresses and so on himself alone?
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no, no and we can talk about that later if you wish. so, no, he was not an orator in the ordinary sense of the word, but let me follow it up briefly along these lines. remember, not that you need me to remind you, but washington is a virginia gentle man and it isn't altogether clear that a virginia gentleman have to beben orator. one might say what about [inaudible] >> we can talk about the gentlemanly nest. he is the exception of the rule. there's a few so i don't want to overplay this necessarily, but the virginia politics what we know of it didn't operate to the full oratory. he kind of got things done differently. but all of that is to say maybe we need to expand our sense of
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what constitutes or what defines eloquence or oratory. i can tell you this. at nuremberg for instance march 15th of 83 when things are getting really weird and he's got virtually the entire officer corps in that room on the ground that newburgh arguably conspiracy on the mind. he walks in front of that room and drops the hammer in front of the most powerful military figures in the nation. if that is and oratory, i don't know what is. first hand reports these are hard guys at the end of the
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nuclear address in tears so i would suggest that we ought to perhaps extend to recognize that there is an eloquent of character. there is an eloquence of the person that speaks, sometimes speaks withh massive power. >> let me ask one question. i wasn't expecting this question but you were describing the journey and it kept coming to mind that it may be unanswerable but when people are welcoming washington in trenton or new york where they also welcoming washington? by that, i mean, what they have welcomed george washington in the same way in 1786? and curious if you have any thoughts on that. >> thank you for the question.
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i can be speculative in this sense and i hope i'm not by suggesting that one, sure, he would have been. there is no more famous american more than franklin at this point. wherever he went it would have been an occasion, yes. but they worked welcoming it seems to me this cuts very deep for me they were not welcoming a military figure.
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what were his contributions to put it mildly of course. but look at the letters and the speeches, the toasts even, that was fun to look at the various toasts. veryry much towards what we woud call the presidency. and he plays that t pretty smar. there are these anxieties. there is a problem where there is the man on horseback so to speak and we get the record on these things as you know it's not real good. you can win the war but its winning piece that's tough and if you're not careful you will have a napoleon come over the horizon. so that insistence on the civil
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authority seems to me and bodied in the person as well as the reception of that person. >> i like that answer a lot. let me remind everyone out there you can ask questions. i want to come to as many as we can so be asking them. of course he's about to be inaugurated but there is a bit of a waiting period before he's ready to be inaugurated. what does that look like? take us up to the day of thef inauguration. to have a cup of tea in your new quarters sort of thing.
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now of course there is a line up allho want to talk to him. so there's that kind of housekeeping business that's going toou go on but i want to mention is in the letters, the correspondence to write toig madison and hamilton and several others asking about certain protocols like should i invite wait, should i go to somebody else's place for dinner. again at the risk of resisting this, what is at stake is what the republican government ought to look like. what are the protocols.
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it's not as if he has much to go on here when he looks across the landscape as you said famously it's like everything. so you ask mr. madison what do you think about which fork do you use for salad, that kind of thing. so there's that housekeeping and figuring out the rules of engagement so to speak. i do want to mention though it seems to me a very important lldimension to this about what after all should a republic look like and as we get to the speech itself what should a republic sound like. but of course this goes on.
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the first thing you want to do is hit someone up for a job. so it appears to be hundreds and hundreds of people saying i thought in trenton and the kids need food. can you see yourself having a job for me. washington has what turns into not really a boilerplate. he seems adapted for the secretary does but in any case i promise not to read it but the upshothe of these responses is they are very polite but very pointed which he specifies why he a can't help. he says first of all, to put it
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casually, this is not going to happen, flat out, this is never going to happen for you. sorry, i know, i appreciate your service but it can't happen and he explainss is tough i have to turn away friends sometimes but it is absolutely crucial to the fortunes of the republican government that this administration be headed by those that are competent to the task and for that reason alone and that underlines it time and time again. so he himself isn't a big partier that he will have some people over to sometimes talk about the old days i'm sure that our interminable interviews.
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there is no cabinet that we would recognize as such. he's trying to figure this out as he goes along. >> we will spend a little bit of time you and me and then go to audience questions on the speech itself. this is now a fixture in the american a civic calendar and ts is the first of them. tell me about the speech, how washingtonth put it together and most importantly, i am interested to hear your take on the speech as the first inaugural address. [inaudible] what are we talking about here after all resident biden i think was the 59th such speech delivered. we might ask and i promise to be responsive to the question but we might ask r as a first orderf
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business why. why do newly installed presidents give oath of office? they don't have to. there's nothing in the constitution. there's nothing i could find in the constitutional debates or the ratification debates. i couldn't find a word about that. did washington invent the inaugural address? he certainly did not. there are variations of the themes that go back for centuries in the colonies and the provinces themselves we would see governors for instance deliver assumption of office addresses, thatse kind of thing but washington did not. so why did the presidents ever after? i know why, because washington
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did. thee speech itself as you might imagine, it's seven paragraphs long, about 1400 words give or take depending which version you are using so it isn't particularly long. it is written in that sort of characteristic 18th century english sort of latin tactical structures and so on, so it isn't a particularly reader friendly text for most people these days. now more specifically, it isn't a peculiar route but washington seems to have asked david humphreys, and the aid of his lfor a long time going back a long time. it was pretty good, kind of a
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bad poet but pretty good with the pen to help him out a about. well, washington says i will get back to you. can you imagine a 70 page speech? even burke -- around christmas time prior to the inauguration itself in april of 89, james madison stops by the house and they spend some time together and it's pretty clear that washington in effect said mr. madison, what do you think of this. he seems to have taken one look at it and said that's not going to happen and the two of them bend themselves to the task. so those of you familiar with madison or medicines pros craft
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you can see it here in several ways. it's that manuscript that gets tucked into washington's breast pocket as he assumes the office itself. he takes the oath of office out on the second floor out on the balcony and delivers it looking at all the people down below saying the president of the united states of america and then walks into what we now call joint session and delivers the address. several people were in attendance and wrote their sort of impressions.
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washington seems several notice that there might have been a bead of sweat or two on the brow and may be a quiver in the boys and shaking in the hands back to the question. i don't think they ever felt particularly comfortable. and that wasn't his zone which is sure, we can talk about why, but one of the legacies why is because i think that he thought it was so essential to the east coast of the republican government that power shows itself andow speaks to its self and let's itself be known that this isn't a european deal french kind of thing or ritual in the house of commons. in any case, he stands up with manuscript in hand, shakes it a little bit but this is a pretty
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intense moment and delivers the address. it isn't particularly long but it is very, very pointed. one of the reasons i entered into the project is i was struck by the relative absence frankly of any serious scholarly work on the inauguration and much less the inaugural address so my kind of modest contribution to that why, i don't know. no sense of dwelling on that but even if it was a dreadful speech it's still the first in any case. >> there is no policy initiative although there is one thing i think you talk about. he is not advocating for a
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series of bills to rectify this wrong or that wrong. he might say in some inaugural addresses that they have an agenda or plan of action so what is in this address? >> okay, very good. it is precedent-setting but i think that without getting into the weeds of it if you would allow me i do want to call one. a. >> of course if it's by my accounts, 14 -- 1,419 words long and seven9 paragraphs. so terrifically that first paragraph is where you sort of gray she -- yourself and he's
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careful to as it were subsume themselves to the office to become sort of a commonplace in the inaugural addresses to greater or less degrees for sure but as a kind of standard go to this is beyond my ability but i will do my best kind of thing and frankly i wish i were back in mount vernon bouncing the kids on my knees but here i am, that'se what you've got to do. there has been an appeal to the sanction. it's conspicuously not a christian language that he mobilizes but for better or worse tend to call the appeal and then the third, you are
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right to talk about policy and what that would even mean under the circumstances but there is very much a statement. we know the word inauguration is the latin term for seeing and predicting. what it looks like when you are just starting something. we then get some talk about article five of the united states constitution. this is perhaps where we see madison's hand being played which washington reminds the audience you know, if things are not going exactly the way you wanted, we can deal with this in that way through the amendment process. he then says listen, towards the
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end i don't want the salary for this and concludes with again and the appeal to the sanction. >> you're right, it's a very short speech for today. breanna inaugural address in 2020 or 2024 if we heard a speech of this length we would think that's short. >> i think so. there wereho shorter, not as sht as you might know, but washington's second inaugural address that might be rather telling was all of what, three sentences. one paragraph is all it was. we have an audience questions and we can talk more. it's a great question i don't know the answer. martha washington, his wife and family, with a any part of the inaugural ceremony or the beginning of the presidency? >> thank you, megan, if i may.
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okay. here's how that turns out martha and the family did not in fact the company george washington on that journey but they will come later. they've got to take care of a situation at the house and figure things out. washington himself has to find people, staff and so on. so to answer your question, there is no immediate presence. i think if i may again may be a little impressionistic but what's really unclear, given the gender dynamics at play and what it meant for a female to be
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publicly effected like that is kind of unclear. is that appropriate or is it not? in any case, after the inauguration ceremonies and so on, everybody wants to have a big party and indeed there is no inaugural ball as such that we would recognize or a parade but the spanish ambassador, the french, they will have that but washington is insistent that they wait until martha comes up including the enslaved and staffed kids and so on as they populate the house but that will be in a couple months. i have another question.
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keep it up, everyone. we are enjoying the questions. another question is about the military uniform. did he were the military uniform during the trip and you mentioned some of these are 19th century, but did he travel by carriage until he was in town on the big white horse before arriving? i think this is something we know he did on occasion but i don't know if it was on this trip. >> sure. again, for all the kind of stern [inaudible] he liked a nice jacket. we know this in part because he actually -- there are letters and exchange where he knows the inauguration is coming up on the horizon. he writes to knox and says can you help me find a tailor up there i think it was in
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connecticut who does really nice work. can you give him my proportions. he is big obviously, and with a nice brown thing going on. now given what we were talking about in terms of the theater of power and the choreography of the republican government, one has to pay attention to one's clothes as jefferson was to find out at a later day. it's not altogether appropriate for the president a of the unitd states of america to open the door in slippers you know. washington was much more formal along those lines. now specifically did he once in a while don his military uniform? i don't know. i haven't come across commentary
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or observations to that effect. frankly, i would be surprised. i have thought it would be inappropriate to civil government for the president the ball dressed in military uniform. the questions continue to come in. i have another one. i love this question because i think there's a lot of answers to this. ..
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>> and then to have come of age under his circumstances were come of age in the time exquisite to write the book on civility and what we can tell is played out a little bit. but what they have to know really early on is the arts of
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how to navigate a powerful company. sometimes that might include knowing how to use your body especially like washington was with the athleticism in terms of how you sat down, danced , that kind of thing. thatth matters. okay. so now with the military experience before the american revolution or the war of independence, meaning what? and he was taught early on and that mismanagement of self before others really matters.
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and then to understand the power of appearances not an exact theoretical terms but in part because it's how you get things done properly. and then to be mortified in showed up in boston to charitably what is called the american army in boston. and then to m walk around looking at superior officers and then to put a stop to that in h a hurry and that is excessive authoritarian but that just looks bad but the
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time will come when that guy giving you a haircut may send you into the front line so we better get this straightened out real quick with the art of appearances. >> one more question coming intoo the audience hoping to touch on with your skilled to evaluate rhetoric is the relationship relating this inaugural address to thehe more famous farewell address i know it was more than enough farewell address may be the inaugural a little less but how do you compare the two? are there common themes or differences quick. >> discretion deserves a
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pause. in my view aside from content and contextwh distinction betwen the fundamental optimism that i see embedded in the first inaugural address in the farewell address not to make as pessimistic but by someone who has had a very rough stretch of it. maybe not in terms of failure or anything like that. but i will put it this way.
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you notice in the first inaugural address there was not one single word what we would call foreign policy. he opened the door to his office and it just never stopped if he looked east there were battles if you look left there were tensions that work with the north and the south. second, i wish i had a better word for pessimism because he was not pessimistic that there is almost that everything that this is about party and
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factions but the reason i am stumbling here is because i don't know for sure but washington in some senses older and wiser and has a few scars on him. and he might have been feeling very 18th century. >> if that hadn't already been coming on to be deeply inscribed that considerations of power and personal interest in that kind of thing. it has beenn a rough couple of administrations. >> this has been a great conversation. so george washington and the invention of the republic
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because we need to know more i agree completely for staff to be written on this subject and to set the stage for so much of what comes later. thank you for sitting down with us welcome to mount vernon someday soon. >> thank you so much and to you again and everyone. we appreciate it. >> thank you to everyone out there for our book talk we have exciting programming coming up and we will see you again. thank you so much.
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>> and from the time they barricaded the door and by the time we got out. it could have been two hours or five minutes and i had no sense of time whatsoever. but then i got off the phone with my kids my heart was pounding out of my chest.
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was actually very worried i was having a heart attack. my father had heart attacks. our family history. so i was is worried, i was very worried about that. must've put my hand up to my chest because that photograph of me taken chose me lying on my back with my hand on my chest. i remember lying on my back but i do remember jason taking my hand and stroking it comforting it saying i would be okay. and being a little perplexed he was reassuring me because i did not realize i was showing how upset i was.


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