George Washington: February 22, 1732 - December 14, 1799
I became a fan of George Washington when I was in second grade. Actually, I saw the above painting on a book cover in my elementary school library. Apparently it’s out of print now. As a little squirt I was so enamered by the beautiful horse that I picked it up and began to read. It didn’t take me long before I realized that George was someone I wanted to know more about. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on his life, I do have a few thoughts worth sharing.
George Washington treated people with respect. It was one of his most distinguishing characteristics. He even created a book of etiquette that he was known to recite to himself. Donna Young took these fabulous sayings and put them down for children. She turned them into penmanship and spelling practice. You can find the link here: George Washington’s Rule of Civility. In modern society these points are sometimes forgotten, but it is my opinion that Washington was faced with no less difficulty than we. He lived in frontier America. He led a starving, ragged army. That fact alone is evidence that he faced more imbeciles than I ever will, and still he seemed to understand that it was important to treat people with courtesy.
Another point that awes me was Washington’s ability to understand complex social issues without becoming subject to social pressure. This is an ability he seems to have honed over time. For example, his perspective on slavery changed quite dramatically. As a young man he accepted the practice when he inherited an estate with a family tradition of slavery, but by the end of his life he had come to abhor it completely. I find the language of his Last Will And Testament to be quite telling. For those slaves that would have been forced into financial difficulty, he gave the option to remain on his estate as free men, apparently without charge.
I also find it interesting that while he was wildly popular in the public eye, Washington had no political ambitions. His only goal was to propel the genuine interest of the country. Unlike most politicians today he would have preferred to stay out of the public eye. Living at home was his life’s dream. But his country needed him and so he did what was necessary. In the process everyone came to love him. He was known for his strong character, for always putting the country’s needs first, and for being the kind of man people could trust. While his constituents would have turned him into a king, he refused the post, setting the precedence for all future presidents.
There are so many points that put me in awe of this amazing man, particularly his willingness to lead a poverty stricken army. Now that is a topic for a seven million word document. But I guess this is starting to sound more like a fan letter than an informative blog post. So rather than continue to blather my points, I’ll just post a few more interesting links.