By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
8:05 PM EST, February 18, 2013
Gov. Martin O'Malley told the Maryland Senate Monday night that if George Washington were to return to the State House in Annapolis, he would warn Americans against a "spirit of hedonism" imperiling the gains of the American Revolution.
Delivering the annual George Washington's Birthday address to senators, O'Malley says a returned Washington would challenge Americans to return to "first principles" and put the common good above personal gain.
It was the first time O'Malley has delivered the annual speech, which is typically given by a legislator. This year, however, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller invited O'Malley to give the address, and the governor accepted with apparent enthusiasm.
O'Malley delivered the remarks in the State House's Old House Chamber, which was recently restored to its appearance in 1878. The chamber is across the hall from the Old Senate Chamber, where Washington famously resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army in 1783. Maryland archivist Edward Papenfuse said the event was the first public ceremony held in the restored House chamber since work was completed.
The governor, believed by many to have his eye on the elected office Washington held first, imagined that if The Father of His Country returned, "he'd probably comment on the traffic congestion."
Instead of making a plea for a gas tax increase, O'Malley pivoted to a more philosophical observation.
"I believe that Washington would warn us about a deeper type of congestion -- of which our transportation woes are merely a symptom. I speak of the congestive failure that increasingly grips democracy's heart: that integrating, synthesizing center of our collective being as a people; the heart, whose function it is to sort through divisions, conflicts, and competing fears in order to hold the creative tension necessary to advance ... the common good," O'Malley said.
While the address was not overtly political, it reflected O'Malley's world view as much as Washington's.
Washington, he said, "would tell us that our country has a higher and larger purpose than securing gated communities for the few."
The Democratic governor also appeared to get in the dig at Wall Street over the causes of the recent recession.
"He would lament the degree to which the ruling financial elite of our times had been allowed to risk bringing the whole country down in ruin for the sake of their personal profit and gain," O'Malley said. "He would lambaste the divisions, and factions, and ultra-ideologies of these times which turn the public dialogue toxic and make principled compromise nearly impossible."
While it was O'Malley's first time delivering the address, he was not the first governor to do so. Papenfuse said Govs. Harry R. Hughes and Parris N. Glendening had spoken at previous Washington's Birthday celebrations.
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