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Ron Kaye: A forefather's forethought

February 16, 2013|By Ron Kaye

When I retired five years ago after a career as a rather maverick newspaperman bristling at the restraints of corporate journalism, I vowed to speak what was in my heart and to say “yes” to just about everything.

Being a yes-man instead of a naysayer has worked out wonderfully for the most part, but it has also gotten me into some awkward situations as it did when Leslie Dutton — the woman behind the Full Disclosure Network’s public access video investigative reporting — asked me to play the role of George Washington in full costume at her annual fundraising event this President’s Day weekend.

The keynote speaker, Scott Minerd, chief investment officer for Guggenheim Partners — the equity firm that recently bought the Los Angeles Dodgers — was set to talk about Washington’s Farewell Address, one of the seminal documents of American history.

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I cannot tell a lie about this, for as much as I knew what Hamilton and Madison and Jefferson believed, I really didn’t know very much about what the father of our country stood for beyond the fact that he was a man of great character who led a ragtag army to victory over the most powerful military on earth and got America going by serving two terms as president when all around him were bickering ambitious men who would have thrown the country into chaos.

So I’ve been reading a lot about Washington and to my amazement his Farewell Address was so prescient he warned against just about everything that I see is going wrong today: endless foreign wars, entanglements with other nations with too many friends and enemies, political parties that thrive on factionalism and disunity and politicians that serve their own, not the public, interest.

As I sipped my evening martini the other night in all my Washington regalia topped with a brilliant white wig and tri-corner hat, I felt myself slipping into character and thought of a possible opening line once the 100 or so guests stopped jeering in disappointment that a real-life former president was not in attendance, as promised.

“I’ve been spinning in my grave for too long. I cannot stay quiet any longer.”

More than anything, Washington believed in the absolute need for unity to sustain a free nation, something that was only possible when North and South, East and West, respected the values, needs and interests of each other.

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