One of the unfortunate things about the way history is taught in public schools today is that while Abraham Lincoln is deified, George Washington seems all but forgotten.
Many Southerners, and some historians, still hold a grudge against Lincoln, but that’s a matter for another day. What’s particularly troubling is the degree to which George Washington has been pushed aside.
Just the idea that we as a nation would go from celebrating Washington’s Birthday (and Lincoln’s) separately to lumping all the presidents into a single day is troubling enough. Does a man of Washington’s stature really deserve to included with the likes of Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding, afterall?
But if you ask many Americans today about Washington’s contributions to this country, their responses rarely go beyond the fact that he was the first president and a general during the Revolutionary War? And, of course, plenty of schoolkids will also include tidbits like he chopped down a cherry tree and owned slaves.
The fact is, Washington is the greatest American ever, bar none. Consider:
- During the Revolutionary War, he held together a rag-tag army and a fragile nation for seven years amid threats of disintegration and collapse, all while battling the most powerful country in the world.
- After the war, he retired to private life at Mount Vernon, instead of assuming control of the new-found nation. That move caused King George III to utter: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
- He presided over the convention that drafted the Constitution in 1787.
- He was the nation’s first president, but avoided joining a political party.
- When his second term ended, he retired to Mount Vernon and the life of a gentleman farmer.
Washington, of course, lived more than 200 years ago and many today have a difficult time understanding the challenges he faced in getting our fledgling nation on the right track.
But instead of the news media holding Lincoln and FDR out as role models for President Obama, it would be nice if some publication somewhere looked back at the man who did more than anyone else to put this country on the path to success.