February 12, 1982

In celebrating the 250th birthday of George Washington, we commemorate the birth of a man whose unsurpassed contributions to our nation place him first in the hearts of all patriotic Americans. From our earliest struggle for independence, his easy, erect, and noble manner combined with his valor and dedication to duty earned him the esteem of his countrymen and gave his life the tenor of greatness.

He served without pay as commander of the Continental Army, endured the privations of Valley Forge, and secured our independence with a great victory at Yorktown. His daring and unshakable belief in this nation's destiny carried us through the darkest hours of that protracted conflict to nationhood. Without the faith and vision of General Washington, our democratic experiment might well have expired at an early age.

As President he unified the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens and inaugurated principles of state that continue to serve us today. His character and magnanimity of spirit permitted him to reconcile and harmonize contending factions and establish the Chief Executive as the President of all the people, not the servant of any single group. His judgment and self-command were instrumental in bringing respect and honor to our national government from the beginning.

But, most important, George Washington was a leader among men who believed that ``honor, justice, and humanity'' called upon them to be the trustees of liberty for posterity. He spoke to every generation of Americans when he said that ``the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.''

Through ages yet to come, George Washington will be remembered with reverence in the hearts of free people everywhere. His life, his deeds, and his spirit are the noble expression of the hopes and dreams of all who seek the liberty essential to human dignity and progress.

Ronald Reagan