George's Last is Burr's First
18 February 2005, News & Record
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By Mark Binker
Sen. Richard Burr has enlisted an ace speechwriter to craft his first address to the U.S. Senate: George Washington.
Burr has been tapped to deliver the first president's farewell address to the nation Friday on the Senate floor, part of a tradition that celebrates Washington's birthday dating to the 19th century.
"The only other North Carolinian to do it was Terry Sanford," Burr spokesman Doug Heye said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist chose Burr for the honor, which comes by way of a special appointment from Vice President Dick Cheney.
Burr, a Republican, became North Carolina's junior senator when he was elected in November. By tradition, newly elected members do not make their first remarks on the floor of the Senate for a month or two after they take their seat. Reading Washington's speech will be Burr's first address to the body.
"The United States Senate is an institution deep in tradition and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in such an honored part of that tradition," Burr wrote in a prepared statement.
Washington never delivered the address as a speech; it was printed in newspapers of the day. Reading it typically takes between 40 and 45 minutes.
The honor alternates every year between the Democratic and Republican members. Last year, Democratic Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana read itthe address.
"It's considered one of the more important documents in American history," said Phil Chase, senior editor with the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia. "It was Washington's legacy to the nation."
In the address, Washington declines to run for a third term, establishing a precedent that remained intact until the 20th century. He also used the message to pass on advice to the leaders who would follow him.
He urged national unity, called for caution in foreign affairs and asked forgiveness for any errors he may have made.
After reading the speech, Burr will write his name and brief remarks in a leather-bound book that contains inscriptions from others who have given it.
© 2005 News & Record
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