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Learning from George

May 18th, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives



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.

Inter­ac­tive portrait

Edu­ca­tional facts that are fun too

George Wash­ing­ton books for kids


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