Monday, February 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, George Washington

Happy Birthday, George Washington
George Washington , Rembrandt Peale
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today's students don't have the same view of George Washington that I remember from my second grade teachers. He was then revered as the Father of Our Country. This is the way most in my generation think of him. 

This is the way some second grade students in the Paso Robles School District draw George Washington. I took this photo in the school  district's special gallery at Studios on the Park. They probably used a picture similar to the one above as a model. They can only draw what they can see. They are also likely  to gain their first impressions of the Father of Our Country from what they are taught.

I hope they are not being taught a vision of our first president conjured up with politically correct hindsight that demonizes George for being a man of his time, and ignores the good he did and the wisdom he applied to governing the country as its first president. If you are a parent, this might be a good day to ask your children what they have learned about George Washington and set the record straight if they have been misinformed by the media or a teacher with an agenda.

Although the story about chopping down of the cherry tree where young George is reputed to have said when accused of doing the deed,  "I cannot tell a lie," has been debunked by today's historians, it does not change the fact the George Washington was a man of good character who is getting a bad rap today. He is the only president who was able to unify a country enough to be elected unanimously the first President, a job he took reluctantly, after presiding over the writing of the Constitution.

As Commander in Chief he persevered in pursuing victory in the Revolutionary War over a powerful enemy against whom there was little chance he could prevail. His army was demoralized and more soldiers were quitting every day. But he pressed on against all odds and won. He had more backbone and character than most, if not all, of today's politicians.

As he retired from office, he left this bit of wisdom among his words in his Farewell Address

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

This appears to be the position we are in today. The political parties were just beginning in Washington's time. He had not joined one. He foresaw the trouble they  could lead to. Though he never sought power for himself, he saw how tempting it would be for others to do so

Learn more about the real George Washington in the books below, one of which consists of his own writings. Another was written by a man of his own  time who knew him well, John Marshall. Who can tell us more about a man than the people who interacted with him when he was alive? Who can reveal the thoughts of a man better than the man himself?

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