Today is President’s Day, and like so many of our other holidays, its meaning has been watered down or forgotten completely. Now, it’s just another federal holiday when banks are closed, no mail gets delivered and people who have the day off from work might find themselves buying sheets and towels at their favorite department store. President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln, both born in February, used to be recognized on two separate days until various lawmakers at all levels started tinkering with it (it’s what politicians do) and the generic term President’s Day came out of it. You can read more about the convoluted history of this day here. It’s an interesting article if you have time or even care about this particular holiday.
I recently read a book by Glenn Beck called “Being George Washington”, so the Father of Our Country has been on my mind. It’s a little late to write a book review since this book came out last November, but it was a good book to read because it weaves actual historical events with some entertaining storytelling about what the First Commander-in-Chief was thinking and feeling as he led the rag-tag Continental Army to a victory over Britain’s highly-trained, professional soldiers in our War for Independence.
Beck’s book gives us a glimpse into the real man behind the familiar face we see on a dollar bill. Forget what you were told in elementary school about young George being so honest that he ‘fessed up to his father after chopping down a cherry tree (it didn’t happen, but he was an honest man). Why make up cute little stories about him, when the truth about the man that was our first president is much, much better? In fact, it beats many action films. During the French-Indian War, Washington had at least two horses shot out from under him, and bullets that pierced his jacket but never touched him. These amazing feats were witnessed by an Indian chief, and caused him to observe,
“The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destines—he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire!”**
Washington, being a man of great faith, attributed his “cheating death” to the protection of Divine Providence that guided him his whole life. Incidentally, these Washington stories were once a part of the public school curriculum, but as progressives took hold of education around the 1930’s, well, the re-writing of our nation’s foundations began.
In “Being George Washington”, you gain a greater understanding of the sacrifice and hardship that it took for that generation, led by Washington, to start a new nation that was unlike any other before it. A nation founded on religious liberty, individual responsibility, and the ownership of private property. Beck uses the stories of history to make it come alive. You understand that Washington was a reluctant leader, but knowing that his time demanded it, he stepped up to do his duty. You also get a sense of his integrity. Unlike today’s politicians who thirst for more and more power, he absolutely refused to assume the title of “king” over the new nation when offered the opportunity. By the time it gets to the end where his death is recounted, it’s quite sad. But, if you read this book, you’ll find yourself thankful that he lived and wanting to be a person like that. In fact, Mr. Beck does a good job of challenging the reader to become like George Washington, because our times demand it too.
Other Washington resources:
The Real George Washington, by Jay A. Parry, Andrew M. Allison
The Bullet Proof George Washington, by David Barton
Take the George Washington Challenge
**Parry, Allison, The Real George Washington, National Center for Constitutional Studies, 2008. p. 49