By Krystina Skurk
Hillsdale College organized the 2nd Annual Washington and Lincoln Toast to honor the presidencies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. Matthew Spalding, Dean of the Steve and Amy Van Andel Graduate School of Government, began his remarks by stating that Hillsdale College doesn’t celebrate President’s Day, as the term is used for bi-partisan mediocrity. Instead, we at Hillsdale celebrate excellence, enshrined in the men and presidencies of Washington and Lincoln, which was met with cheers and applause of those in attendance.
Standing between two miniature statues of Washington and Lincoln and in front of Sam Knecht’s painting depicting the signing of the Constitution, several friends of the college also gave toasts.
In his toast, Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, quoted a portion of George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation:
"[T]hat we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us..."
Domenech praised other founders as well. He took a look back at the Pilgrims and spoke about their humility and ability to persevere through suffering – lessons our later founders would take to heart.
A current student at The Steve and Amy Van Andel Graduate School of Government also gave a toast in honor of Washington and Lincoln, or as she called them -- “men of prudential decisiveness.” She spoke about the perseverance Washington and Lincoln demonstrated when they led the country through intensely difficult periods of trial and the fact that they both did this for the cause of freedom; freedom from a tyrannical empire and freedom from the scourge of slavery.
Hillsdale College alumna Madeline Fry declared in her toast, “Through the pursuit of individual freedom may we all be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.”
To end the evening, Dr. Matthew Mehan, director of academic programs at Hillsdale in D.C. gave a toast entitled, “A Farewell Toast to Lincoln.” Dr. Mehan told a touching story from some of Lincoln’s last days, a story that makes one wonder if Lincoln knew what was to come. As Dr. Mehan iterated, Lincoln “knew to fear the Ides of April as much as the Ides of March. But like any just man, he knew the hope of rest and the promise of peace hereafter.”
In a fitting end to a lovely and profound evening, Dr. Mehan said this as everyone raised their glasses in honor to these two indispensable men:
“Our lovely night here is ended, and we can sleep well knowing that our father Lincoln has found his rest. So let us raise a parting glass, and let us pray that we may have Lincoln’s courage: to avoid the fantasy of false peace; his wisdom: to see the peaceful rest that waits us beyond this world; and his wit, to earn that peace as we defeat all “Malice domestic,” all “foreign levy,” and all “Treason” against Nature and Nature’s God, and against the United States.”
Read Dr. Mehan's full remarks.