Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Last night, as with Presidents since George Washington, President Obama delivered his third State of the Union Address. Over the years, Presidential statements have increased influence and profound impact on both the direction of our country as well as personal expressed values and beliefs which strengthen us as a democracy and a people.
Moses Seixas, of the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, expressed the hope that this new country would accord all of its citizens respect and tolerance, whatever their background and religious beliefs.
In assuring the Hebrew congregation that “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid", George Washington in his August 17th 1790 response to the Hebrew Congregation wrote in part:
"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."
The meaning of his words spans from that history to the present and from one community's faith and freedoms to those of many communities. What does your understanding of Washington's response teach us about our own interaction with people of other cultures, religions, and ethnicities?