In honor of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, the National Archives is displaying the first and last pages of President George Washington's first inaugural address, on rare view Jan. 11-Jan. 31.
In his humble handwritten address, our first President spoke of "the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me".
The "Father of Our Country" alluded modestly to his "deficiencies", like "inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised (sic) in the duties of civil administration".
Washington pledged preservation of "the sacred fire of liberty".
On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the Presidential oath in New York City on a balcony of Federal Hall as an enthusiastic crowd watched from the street. Then, the President went to the hall's Senate Chamber, and delivered his first inaugural address to members of Congress.
He spoke of his determination to make the American "experiment" a success.
(Back to the present, the 57th inaugural swearing-in ceremony and address will be live-streamed at 11:30 A.M. Jan. 21 on a big screen at the National Archives. Then, go outside to watch the inaugural parade pass in front of the Archives.)
For the most famous portraits of George Washington, walk a block to the National Gallery of Art, which is displaying several Presidential portraits for the inauguration.
These include works by Gilbert Stuart, the "Father of American Portraiture". Stuart's famed Gibbs-Coolidge portraits are the only surviving set of portraits depicting the first five American presidents.
Also, the National Gallery's newly conserved portraits of George Washington, John Adams, and Abigail Adams are in its recently installed "Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830", the first major presentation of early American furniture and related decorative arts on permanent public view in Washington.
So, celebrate our first President and our current President -- and the success of what George Washington termed the "experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
You can handle beautiful reproductions of Washington's first inaugural address; a letter from an army major suggesting that the army make Washington "King of America" -- Washington promptly ordered the officer to "banish these thoughts from your Mind"; President Washington's Farewell Address; and other documents in the newly published "George Washington: An Interactive Biography" by Rod Gragg (Pelican Publishing Company).
Washington's farewell advice is as wise and timely now as it was in 1796, urging Americans and the government to seek the "public good" rather than "political power" and "cherish public credit" while "avoiding the accumulation of debt..."
For more info: National Archives, www.archives.gov, East Rotunda Gallery, on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue and 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 202-357-5000. National Gallery of Art, www.nga.gov, on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue, NW, between 3rd and 7th Streets, Washington, DC, 202-737-4215. "George Washington: An Interactive Biography" by Rod Gragg (Pelican Publishing Company).