The United States celebrates the birthday of its founding father, George Washington, with President's Day every third Monday in February (his actual date of birth is Feb. 22nd). In honor of this occasion, on February 17, English Department hosted guest speaker Steve Gillen, Political Officer of the US Embassy in Sarajevo, for a talk entitled “George Washington and the History of the American Presidency” Mr. Gillen, who is a human rights specialist and a former professor of American foreign policy, focused his talk on two important events of Washington's life, the Temple of Virtue incident and the Farewell Address.
The first was Washington's peaceful suppression of an attempted military coup in 1783, which illustrates the tremendous personal reverence in which Americans have always held Washington even during his lifetime. That reverence meant that Washington's advice in his famed Farewell upon leaving the Presidency in 1796 - that the US should work to increase international harmony and should avoid “entangling alliances” with foreign powers - was taken as a national principle and made the US reluctant to intervene in world affairs until the World War II era.
Mr. Gillen concluded that America's current standing as a global power with an interventionist foreign policy is much more recent, and much more disputed among Americans, than many people now realize. The reaction to the speech seemed very favorable and it was followed by a number of questions and comments from students interested in American affairs.