News Releases

Monday, February 28, 2011

Isakson Delivers President Washington's Farewell Address on Senate Floor
Carries on Senate's Time-Honored Tradition

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today led the Senate in one of its most steadfast traditions, the annual reading of President George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796.

"I was humbled to have been selected to carry out this time-honored tradition in the U.S. Senate," said Isakson. "Upon his decision not to seek a third term, President Washington wrote this farewell address with the intent of inspiring and guiding future generations and reminding his countrymen to heed the wisdom of the Constitution that had been ratified just eight years earlier. The tradition of reading this speech in Congress began during a turbulent time in our nation's history and remains particularly relevant today."

Washington's Farewell Address was first published on September 19, 1796, in the Philadelphia Daily American Advertiser and then in newspapers around the country. Washington did not publicly deliver his address. However, when the Constitution was threatened during the Civil War, 1,000 Philadelphia citizens petitioned Congress to commemorate the upcoming 130th anniversary of George Washington's birth by providing that "the Farewell Address of Washington be read aloud on the morning of that day in one or the other of the Houses of Congress." Senator Andrew Johnson introduced the petition and it was first read aloud at a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives on February 22, 1862.

In 1888, the centennial year of the Constitution's ratification, the Senate recalled the ceremony of 1862 and had its presiding officer read the Address on February 22. The practice became an annual event beginning in 1896. Since that time the Senate has observed Washington's birthday by selecting one of its members to read the 7,641-word statement on the floor of the Senate. It typically takes about 45 minutes to read the entire address aloud.

Isakson is the fourth senator from Georgia selected by leadership to deliver the address. The others were Augustus O. Bacon in 1901, Walter F. George in 1927, and Saxby Chambliss in 2003.

The full text of Washington's Farewell Address can be found at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21/pdf/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21.pdf.